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Behind the Scenes: The cloud in cloud computing requires extensive data centers. Most of us don’t think about the infrastructure of how Google can get search results to your desktop in 0.15 seconds multiplied by millions of users every minute.
Economics: Alex discusses idiot taxes and the price of HDMI cables. I have been surprised by the same phenomenon with regard to Apple iPod chargers and headphones. Deals can be found online sometimes, but almost never in retail stores. Why is that?
Big Picture: Innovation is a hot topic in business circles for a while now. Jeff Jarvis writes thoughtfully about how the innovations of the last few years have acted differently from innovations in prior years. Previously, business innovations created increases in GDP, things like the Personal Computer and the ShamWow that consumers bought and companies derived income from. Lately, some of the most important innovations, Craigslist and Google included, reduced corporate income (macro), but increased personal wealth (micro). This is critical because reporting on our economic progress have been focused on macro trends for many years. We need to develop alternative measures to accurately report on our progress.
Fun: Spend 2 minutes and watch this great stop action film, done as a senior project by a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Chutzpah: Wow! I haven’t posted a chutzpah link before today, but I had to post this. For those of you who are unsure about the meaning of chutzpah, according to dictionary.com it is unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall.
Technology: I consider myself pretty competent around a spreadsheet. I knew about half of these double-click wonders for Excel. On this page there are also links to a few other pages with Excel shortcut magic.
Behavior: Since I have a child in college, I am not sure that I want him to see this, but those entrepreneurs and innovators are out there, creating new and better products. According to Bruce Schneier, the ones to lose in this battle of wits will likely be the innocent student who really does have the computer trash his paper.
Behavior: How do our parenting skills relate to the future of our children’s intellectual development? Does Dr. Spock bear a lot of the blame?
Behavior: A new book,Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by is pretty impressive. Here is one of my favorites:
How restaurant mints are a personalized affair. Let’s a say a restaurant provides mints for its customers on the way out. If the amount of tips per week is the baseline for that restaurant, let’s make the waiters include a mint as they give the check to the customer. The tips go up by 3.3%. However, when the waiters offer the mints themselves, prior to signing the check, the tipping amount went up by 14.1%. In yet another experiment, the waiter would present the patrons with 1 mint per guest, then give them the check, then turning around to leave, then, as if remembering something sudden, turning around and giving them yet another mint per guest. Result? 23% increase in tips, as this signaled high amount of personalization.
Economics: Wonder how the local governments are going to handle the reduction in tax income? Some places have it figured out… If you haven’t gotten the ticket yet, it seems you will.
Big Picture: I am reading a very interesting book, The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life, by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot. The idea is that we need to have some sense of numbers before we can make rational decisions. The book is broken up into chapters like Count, Size and Average. In each, the authors try to show how a little thinking can help us understand what we read and how people can use numbers to confuse. On a related point, the Freakonomics blog today talks about why it may be better for us to move to an SUV rather than a Prius. How could this be? Well, it has to do with our understanding (or lack thereof) of the most common statistic related to fuel economy, miles per gallon.
Fun: There is this group called Improv Everywhere. They stage fun, surprising scenes. For the past 8 years, they have staged the No Pants Subway Ride, where their teams (in 22 cities this year, with over 1200 participants in New York alone) get on the subway wearing only their undies. No harm, no fuss, just bringing fun to the world. Their latest escapade was to provide a wedding reception to a couple who had just been married by a judge in New York City. What a great gift. The world needs more Improv.
Economics: The Freakonomics blog points us to Al Roth of the Harvard Business School. He talks about the opposite of repugnance. These are things that we as a society promote, even though there are no good financial or political reasons. They include: monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, home ownership and donating to charity.
Technology: Lots of talk about this new product that Google introduced (not released) at their IO Conference, called Google Wave. A good overview article can be found at Techcrunch, but if you have an hour and a half to spare, I heartily recommend you watch the keynote speech where the development team demonstrated the tool. Wave solves some of the problems that we have today with out communications products, by providing a single repository for waves that can contain multi-media and can be edited by a specified group. The good news is that Google is planning to release Wave as an open source product, so developers can use common interfaces to build new features, much like the Firefox browser. This also means that Google will probably not be using this as an advertising vehicle. Lots of whiz bang stuff has been included like real time search, context sensitive spell check, easy two way integration with blogs and real time translation.
Behavior: My most popular column to date is the one I entitled “The Young Entrepreneur“. Tomatonation wrote a version that was more life centered and less business life centered. But it belongs on the reading list for any 25 year old.
Big Picture: There is no more pressing issue in our financial lives than Health Care. If we continue on the current path, we will be spending more than 40% of our GDP on health care issues with no better outcomes than the average country. An indepth article in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande talks about the medical services provided in a high cost county and a low cost county. The differences may surprise you.
Behavior: Micah muses about the greatest time of your life. It is interesting to think that you might live your life one way if you think that you have already had your greatest time of your life and another entirely if you are waiting for it.
Behind the Scenes: Here is a story of the New York Times Economics reporter who is on track for foreclosure on his house and the story of how he got there. An eye-opening view of the loan practices (and unwise spending habits) of our times.
Lots of talk lately about data.
Behind the Scenes: The credit card industry has changed a lot in the past 25 years. The amount of data that the credit card companies know about you and use to predict the future is astonishing. The psychology of getting late payers to get current based on that data bank is also amazing.
Strategy: How do we keep track of the right metrics when determining future plans? Eric Reis says scientific methods can help determine the best ways to dig deeper into the metrics that we collect. Simple things like using a split A/B test will provide you with more data to make better decisions. Eric goes into a lot more detail about tests in his article on the FourHourWorkWeek blog.
Behavior: Google probably collects more data about us than we can imagine. They are now using this data on their own employees to try to determine who will be the next to leave the company.
Entrepreneurship: Think the inner city can’t be a place to start a new business? Think again. Given that there is a whole lot more real estate out there available, albeit some with bank branches and auto dealerships. Smart entrepreneurs are going to be looking for ways to make a business around these sites.
Strategy: Another Seth Godin gem. Knowing how to ask is more important than the ask itself.
Behavior: Dan Ariely, author of the terrific book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, spoke at a recent EG conference. EG is an offshoot of the TED conference. Dan’s topic was about how we make decisions. Besides the usual visual games, he discusses some of the reasons that we make decisions and how options that have absolutely no value often distract us in our decision-making process. Marketers are using this information today to get you to move on their buying process. In fact, as Dan describes, it could be a matter of life and death in a medical setting.
Fun: I was one of the unnamed friends at Kristin’s turkey (and other assorted goodies) fry-off last weekend. Pictures and recipes are included in her blog. I admit that I was unsure about the whole deep frying bit, but man, these treats were wonderful.
DePaul: Thursday was a long day and thus no blog post. DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center had their gala event and gave out several awards. Congrats to Chris Campbell of Lakeshore Branding and Greenwerks, Jen Moran of Greenola and Ben Meader of CareerHook. Also congratulations are in order to my friend Bruce Leech of evolve who was named the Coleman Foundation Catalyst Award Recipient.
Business Strategy: Tim Ferriss talks about a book by his friend, Alan Webber, called Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self. In the article, he has an excerpt of the book, RULE #24 – If you want to change the game, change the economics of how the game is played. After reading this, I need to read the entire book.
Behind the Scenes: We all remember the heroism of Captain Chesley Sullenberger in the saving of US Air Flight 1594 on the Hudson River. What we have never seen until now are the pictures of the plane as it was recovered from the chilly waters of the Hudson. Photographer Stephen Mallon was there and photographed the scenes for Wired.
Fun: A fun new toy to play with, but one that has significant potential to be a solid research tool is Wolfram|Alpha. Gina Trapani played with it and wrote a multi-faceted review.
Innovation: Allan Young writes a great article on the virtues of the Pareto Principle as it relates to your career. You probably remember the Pareto Principle as the 80-20 rule. In this article he also talks about the venture capitalist’s issue with the Pareto Principle.
Chicago: I have been thinking about the Chicago Entrepreneurial environment lately for a new idea and one of the big issues is that we, here in Chicago, have this notion that the financing folks (angels, VC, private equity) are socially conditioned to be risk averse and thus new start-ups don’t start or prosper here at the same rate as on the coasts. This post by Micah titled competitive cooperation, after you get past his illness description, talks about how the tech community in Boulder works to support each other, while striving for personal success. It would be great to get some of this thinking going in Chicago.
Entrepreneurship: For some reason, I am in a teaching mood today. Here is a long post by Mark Cuban about success and motivation.