Various economics reads

* Mandarin Chinese in schools. Hear hear. It would be interesting to see a complete curriculum redesign for the next century. I’d certainly think Chinese should be in the curriculum. I wonder how you might change the sciences curriculum — traditional chemistry seems like a bit of a dinosaur to me, I’d rather see more physics and computer science.
* Storage industry facts“…an industry that now exceeds the revenues of Hollywood…”
* Open Source economics models. I wonder how broadly the ideas of open source can apply.
* The sports economist on the implications of the nba age floor — the rise of private development leagues funded by talent agencies. Fascinating, perhaps a great outcome for athletes who aren’t college-oriented.

Tom on Negotiating

Tom Evslin has a great post on negotiating. “Lesson #3: start winning right away, even on modalities. Demanding and conceding are habits.” I would not want to be across the table from Tom, I always want him on my side. Thankfully, during the course of my career, I’ve always been on the same side of the table when I worked with Tom.

Interesting business and economic reads, all over the map

* Cuban lays out the case that the maximum damages the RIAA can demand of a user are $5 a month — brilliant.
* Newsgator and Brad Feld doing an RSS rollup — none of our companies have played this game, perhaps we need to learn more about.
* Opensource developers team up with open usability experts. Wow. Can marketing, PR, and other business functions be far behind?
* Radio stations are responding to ipod use. With format changes, cost cutting, podcast repurposing, etc.
* Martin starts reading the peak oil theorists. I am just way more optimistic than the peak oil crowd.
* Politicians scrambling to align themselves with biodiesel

Recent Business Readings

* John Zagula on the “Yes, But, So” methodology — “The Yes lets your listeners know that you’ve heard their position and you understand. But announces that you know there can be a better way. So presents your idea for how to get there. These three little words are the only ones you really need to kick off any logical argument. And they will help you keep it down to three sentences.”
* Martin on offshoring in the most minimal sense — no need to go 1000 miles when 12 will suffice
* Another post on power from Martin — this one on foreign energy dependency in trade dollar terms. Boy this analysis, and our growing trade imbalance with China etc, makes me start to appreciate DRM and IP protection more than I have in the past — our IP heavy businesses (software, content) are areas where we can and should make up some of the trade imbalances we face.
* Interesting analysis of the Newsweek high school rankings — our local Bellevue schools have certainly learned how to game the system
* Lastly, belated kudos to MSFT for changing its position on gay rights. We loved the tolerance of the West Coast and MSFT when we moved out here, and it is great to see it is still a core value of the company.

Power in the home

Martin has been an enthusiastic blogger about alternative energy — his biodiesel commuter car, a new cellulose ethanol plant, new biodiesel pumps in seattle. I admire his putting his investment and consumer dollars on the line.

It’s made me intrigued about power. I’ve started at the DOE site on power use by consumers. I learned that, as of 2001:

* We’re using about 95 Million BTU per household per year. About 4 3/4s short tons of coal for each of our homes if I did the math right.
* Most of our use in the home is for heating (our surroundings and our water) and cooling.
* The big story from 1993 to 2001 is declining power usage for heating, offset in part by greater cooling usage. I assume our heating systems are getting more efficient though there could be other reasons.
* Appliances and lighting are about a quarter of our use.

I am very curious about the next 10 years of use:

* What will hybrid cars do to our consumption in the home?
* How will the entry of low power lighting into the home (compact fluorescent, LED) affect usage?
* How will the explosion of digital technology in the home affect our level of use — and our demand for uninterruptible power?
* How will all this affect our HVAC needs?
* What about home power generation? Good article in Wired about home power generation. and look at this cool sharp system for managing your home power generation and grid connection

As a bleeding edge user, I am starting to see strains on the power (and HVAC) systems in my home:

* A sea of wallwarts generating DC power and heat in various places in the house.
* Significant heat disposal issues in my office and at media centers. I’ve had to do crazy special things to deal with these problems — a special air conditioner for the office, a venting system and fan for the media center. The existing HVAC system, designed for whole house human comfort, is not designed to deal with waste heat from appliances.
* Low end battery backups in a couple places in the home to insure continued operation of phones, pcs, etc.

No conclusions here today, just wondering. I’d love to talk to some home builders and understand what they view as state of the art hvac/power systems in the home.

Recent lessons in business

* A Unified Theory of VC Suckage, via A VC. Mom and Dad will be so proud of me now…
* Rich finds an old chestnut — “…the organization of the software and the organization of the software team will be congruent; commonly stated as ‘If you have four groups working on a compiler, you’ll get a 4-pass compiler’ “
* Tom Evslin’s 3rd in a series on managing programmers — great trueisms.
* Raymond’s analysis of the Infospace debacle.

Need a car for 6 months

I need a car for about 6 months to use up on Lopez Island. You can do long term rentals at places like Budget but very expensive.

Assuming an existing lease may be the way to go — Swapalease and Leasetrader both seem to have a lot of inventory.

I wonder if contacting some local leasing agents directly might not be the smartest thing to do — they must have some leases in default that they need someone to pick up.

Compelling reads over the last couple weeks

* Tim on limits — “The most important is that the less you can put into a solution or system, the less risk there is to it failing to provide a return on the investment of time and resources. Conversely, it provides the potential for a higher margin if it is indeed successful.”
* Ballmer on being first — “When Ballmer gets talking about how Microsoft must be first with technology innovations ? which, so far in Microsoft’s history, has not often happened…” — amazing how critics continue to miss the obvious areas where Microsoft was first. The refactoring of the PC industry from vertical all-in-one boxes to today’s horizontal build-your-own didn’t just happen by accident, there is a ton of software innovation that occurred to support and motivate that shift.
* Mini-Microsoft pulls no punches — “Is something rotten in Redmond? Yes! It’s the rotting, fleshy mass of way too many misdirected, underutilized, and unneeded Microsofties.” And on a more prescriptive note: “My humble suggestion: flatten the Microsoft product team management chain.”
* Which ties nicely to some good stuff Tom Evslin has been writing — the flattening of organizations, the flattening of information retrieval.

Various business readings

These have intrigued me recently:

* Graphical representation of Apple’s strategy via Gary Turner. Who would of thought 5 years ago that Apple would become oh so relevant again?
* Conversely, Charles Cooper grades Bill Gates via the Seattle PI. Ouch and probably unfair, but an interesting take.
* Kind of long in the tooth now, but analysis of IBM’s PC business sale — it’s all about China. Time to learn chinese.
* Also a bit long in the tooth, but…GM is blogging. Great way to reach out to influentials and build community around products.
* Via Scott Loftesness, good whitepaper on customer economics (pdf).
* Mark Cuban on private social security accounts.

Those Comedians at FedEx

So a gift for Christmas was sent by FedEx Ground to my work address on December 17. It arrived at the local FedEx distribution center in Auburn and was put on a truck on December 23 for delivery. However, it was not delivered, and on the tracking website over the weekend a posting was made that said that FedEx was waiting for an address correction from the recipient, me. FedEx did not call the sender, did not call me, did not leave a notice at my workplace, they just put this notice up.

Well actually that is not all they did. They also sent a postcard via US Mail to the apparently incorrect address asking for an address correction. Said postcard arrived today.

I have no idea how FedEx holds this idea in their head. Either the address is correct and they can deliver the package, or it is incorrect and sending a postcard is not going to help. As it turns out the street address was fine but the zipcode was off in the last digit — not a problem for the USPS but apparently something that brings FedEx to a crashing halt. Not a problem for UPS either since they do address verication at time of shipping (or at least they do everytime I ship).

I’ll use UPS and USPS, thanks.

Economy readings 11/29

* Mitch Ratcliffe points to NY Times article on borrowing billions to allow private SS investments. This does just seem nutty, we are already incredibly underfunded on SS commitments, borrowing even more doesn’t seem to be the path to fixing SS.
* From gadgetopia, the velocity of wikipedia. Fascinating display of the power of openness and community. Competing against efforts like this must be painful.
* Outsourcing to rural america.
* How to pitch into the long tail of bloggers
* Oprah’s favorite things list. I always find this show fascinating. The mania of the audience, the business behind the placements. Great theater and great business.

Econ readings

* A tale of two condiments — more than you ever wanted to know about the design, production, and marketing of mustard and catsup. I am not a catsup user but this made me reconsider.
* The future of television advertising — interesting thoughts. the one thread I find interesting is the notion of late binding of commercials at the point of consumption — rather than creating one commercial that is slammed into a show at the point of broadcast, perhaps we will move to a model where commercials are inserted much later and on a more personalized basis. Interesting.

Joel Spolsky on platform adoption

From interview on Microsoft Watch:

I actually don’t know what goes on in large corporations any more. But there’s something strange about SharePoint. Whenever you have a technology that’s sold only to the enterprises ? SharePoint, InfoPath or whatever ? it’s always going to be at a competitive disadvantage, in terms of mind share than something that gets sold to the whole world.

For example, nobody’s ever going to use SharePoint in college. Ever. So no startup is ever going to use SharePoint because none of the kids who leave college are going to know it. This was BEA’s big problem. Kids in college, when they want to learn about Web development, they learn Perl, PHP, maybe Microsoft’s (ASP.Net) stack. They don’t learn about Domino or BEA. So the only way those guys have hope of getting mind share in the market is to have an extensive sales force. They’re always going to be sweeping back the waves against the force of the cheap, easy way of getting started in college.

Dead on.

On the economics front…

* Wired article about the long, profitable tail of publishing. Not shocking perhaps but a good read.
* Buy your place in a novel. $150 currently.
* Ross Mayfield on productivity and value shiftThis is accelerated commoditization, where value shifts to people; and managing risk and complexity.

Interesting to think about given the current discussion of offshoring in our economy — these links make me feel that there is plenty or work yet to do that is not readily moved offshore. It does require a different kind of education…