Saturday, November 19, 2005
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Along with Yahoo Maps' similar mashups these applications are based on AJAX, a form of Java and XML which allows web based applications to be full featured, incredibly fast and may be even more dynamic than desktop applications as data and changes can flow in an out of pages without reloading. This technology will surely accelerate the trend to web based applications and away from traditional desktop applications and client server technologies. The portability of these applications to mobile devices, as the actual java script client is so light and the response is so fast, will also finally entice users to sign up for data plans on their mobiles in the US.
As an avid runner I particularly like gmap-pedometer (click to see one of my favorite routes on the NH Seacoast) which, for the first time, allowed me to easily measure my daily running routes. Try it out. gmap-pedometer offers the option of using www.tinyurl.com to generate and store what is surely a long URL with all the geographic coordinates and thus provide a shorter pointer for messages, blogs, etc...
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Carriers will not long be able to keep the barriers up, and the tolls on, for individual applications downloaded to the phone or for users' access to web services enabled sites such as Google Local. In fact, this development, and the reliabilty of these new services now make me a happy Sprint Vision (their data plan for $10/mo.) customer. Sprint will likely see increasing numbers of customers opting for data and as wireless bandwidth increases people like me will be willing actually pay more for increased reliabilty and speed as long as the customer has the freedom to chose the wireless sites and applications which make the most sense for their needs. A commodity purchase.
While downloaded music is somewhat more complicated in terms of bandwidth, rights management, and playback capabilities its time will come too. Sprint's recent launch of a download music service, while in all respects seemingly a great product, will not fly far, at least in the US with songs at $2.50 each when the standard is iTunes $0.99. Tolls are on and an opportunity may be lost.
Over on the Nextel side of Sprint niches and focus on customer segments are the norm. The recent launch of Nextel Direct Send ,a service which allows pictures to be taken and sent while on a walkie-talkie call without interupting the call, will prove a boon to professionals such as real estate agents, contractors, and public safety folks. Who knows maybe teens too! The $0.25 per send is a steep price to pay, much like the Sprint music. Likely this will evolve into an all you can send for $5-$10 per month which many will be happy to pay. Nextel will maintain and increase its grasp on tradespeople and professionals through such careful examination of customer needs and innovative use of their IDEN platform.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Today, I downloaded Google Local Mobile to my Sprint phone.
Note that not all phones will work with Google Local Mobile as unlike Yahoo it is a downloaded application to the phone. You must have BREW but the easy set up at the Google web site will help you determine if your phone will accept the application. Note that you also need an Internet data plan as part of your service.
Very similar to the Yahoo Mobile with the added benefit of not only directions but the now almost ubiquitous Google maps and even satellite views. Again a very simple and easy to use interface.
You can locate yourself on the map by using your phone's joystick button. You can click through the turn points on the map with a bubble indicating the turns popping up on the phone screen. No more printing directions before a trip. And if your phone has GPS capabilities an MSNBC article states that according to Google the software will know where you are so you can find local addresses all that much easier. I guess it also means Google will know where you are...a bit scary but in my book a worthy tradeoff for the convenience of on the go maps and directions. They do promise they will not use this info to push ads at you.
Much as the iPod's success is due to elegantly focusing on the mission at hand both of these services finally make reading email and finding addresses and following directions a practical feasibility on mobile phones. Consumers will benefit from the battle between these two for the small screens on the go.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
September 19th I ordered the new iPod Nano, again with free shipping and engraving. September 22nd at noon the Nano showed up, having been customized and shipped all the way from China in less than 3 days!
Clearly a truly amazing performance for a mass customized (engraved) product, enabled by a superb supply chain collaboration between Apple and Fed Ex and of course the Impossibly Small size of the product itself!
As a runner I think the easy to use stop watch feature on the Nano is a useful bonus and a first for iPods.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
While there is a subscription of $25 per year this specialized site on ultra lightweight outdoor gear combines insightful editorial with an active community of members who analyze, comment, modify, and weigh gear down to the fraction of an ounce. Great example of an authoritative, if somewhat obsessive niche resource, and online community on a specific subject. Larger manufacturers are well advised to linger and participate a while.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Very interesting article which explores the use of conventions in design to change how people perceive products. Among other things why do consumers almost universally perceive the iPod design as "clean" and what associations might consumers have made based on the design to arrive at that perception?
Monday, September 05, 2005
Clearly our internet and technology enabled world is not what the inventors of the internet imagined when they conceived of a mesh of communications to survive a nuclear war. In fact, the web of communications in the disaster area and beyond completely broke down in my view because most every communication funnels through "hub and spokes" be they large telecom hubs or bureaucracies, a model the airlines functioned with and failed with. The wireless systems which provide us such mobility failed along with the rest, no power and they were tied into the hubs as well. And even if you could get a signal with no power to charge a cell or raido battery, communications went dead. I always carry a www.sidewindercharger.com charger to hand crank charge my cell if need be. Satellite phones, a business barely sustained by news organizations, NGO's and yachts proved invaluble- the few in the hands of the media from their travels to Iraq and the Third World. AM radio served as the only means of communications in New Orleans.
The centralized FEMA and LA state government were paralyzed by indecision and even paperwork! in the early going. They clearly didn't understand the geography. The playbook should have gone out the window earlier and bold initiative should have gone into action . Even watching TV and interfacing with the resourceful journalists would have brought help further and earlier to the stranded as the newspeople were on the scene and communicating.
Tragically, real long term plans to raise the levees as the land sank and the wetlands were filled in for development languished for decades with the most clearly at risk, the poorest, also those with the least politcal clout. There was a big picture of increasing risk which went largely answered for decades despite warnings.
Further, our reliance on "supply chains" timed to the second to maximize efficiencies when was combined with the geographical importance of New Orleans as the funnel for so many goods and so much energy sharply underlined the fragility of a chain vs. a mesh of mutiple sources. Now that the "supply chain" of relief is flowing efficiently, help is surely coming, but to late for how many?
Early initiative to help resided with the nimble and focused-the Coast Guard, other military and volunteers. The Coast Guard saves lives from water and storm and that is exactly what they did. Leadership came from General Honore who like a later day Patton (one with a heart) charged in with force and a clear mission. He "personally" brought help and visibly defused tensions by telling soldiers to lower the weapons-"You're not in Iraq" he told them. These situations demand organized leaders who function on initiative, seeing the big picture, flexibility, action, and passion- not exactly the conventional and current model of specialization so prevelant in business and FEMA? and also so sought after from a higher educational system focused on research and test scores.
Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite thinkers and writers; author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and many great articles bridging business, technology, science, and the complex ways humans act individually and in groups.
The Bakeoff concerns a top food industry development firm located in Silicon Valley testing three methodologies of invention to come up with a new cookie.
Fascinated by software development the principal decided to test 2 current approaches to software development vs. a traditional product development process.
The development processes were:
- The XP or extreme software model where 2 people partner and iterate multiple times- in this case a foodie and a food technologist pretty much doing everything from ideas to making the cookies. This approach is now quite popular in software development.
- The Linux or open source model where a large group of gurus attempt to collaborate- in this case the Dream Team was made up of an all-star cast of cookie technologists from multiple consumer companies.
- The traditional model- in this case led by the firm’s director of marketing who was not a food technologist but a brilliant, high energy idea person with broad knowledge. She was supported by one of the firm’s product development directors who would execute her ideas.
The teams were all given certain tough “health” parameters for the product: fat, carbs, etc.. but otherwise free to innovate. At the end of the process the 3 cookies were sent for taste testing to several hundred consumers.
The winner based on the consumer testing was the traditional model followed closely by the open source or multiple collaborating gurus approach.
The XP model was far behind in the taste test but actually had a decent product first. They went right to work, in a highly linear fashion but did not really think outside the box.
The Dream Team had plenty of expertise and came up with 34 possibilities but due to large group size, egos, and a deliberate lack of leadership and disconnected remote nature there was to much friction to get a really innovative product out the door despite all their talents. Yet, they were close to the winners.
The winner took a long time getting going due to “idea a minute” but in the end because of her broad knowledge she was able to connect laterally to another product, a tortilla chip of all things sitting on her desk which was part of another project, to come up with the idea of a tasty coating “an explosion of flavor” similar to a tortilla chip but on the sweet side of course. which her team executed on. She was well supported by her very experienced product development person and his team. She found the big idea.
Monday, August 08, 2005
The nuts and bolts of customization of physical products via the internet. One internet player cafepress claims it can produce from 8 million different designs onto products such as T-shirts, mugs, etc... all shipped within 24 hours. Millions of niche products.
The secret is to enable the direct transfer of the data of the internet order to the machinery of production.
Customers can upload their own artwork and create a complete online store for their creations. As the "substates" are limited to what cafepress has available in a way this can be thought of as a new form of low run custom printing on 3D shapes.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Interesting recap article about networks of trust on the internet
In 1999 I co-founded efavorites one of the earliest internet based systems for combining user generated content with most of the aspects and functionality of what is now known as social networking to create networks of trust. The content was called favorites (people, places, and things) and postings were to a structured taxonomy and seachable database.
Later we built systems which allowed reveiws, recommendations, and ratings to be"bolted on" to the existing online catalogs of our customers through a pioneering (at the time) real time publishing system based on XML, EJB, and J2EE. Content was not only associated with specific items but also specifc people whose collection of content associated with items became a profile. Thus, the user could easily navigate from the item review or recommendations to the author's other content to evaluate its relevance and trustworthiness to the user
In a nutshell we are most often known and can be evaluated by what we like and who we associate with-Are they like me and can their advice be trusted?
We found that an 80/20 rule applied to active contribution of new content. 80% of the content was written by less than 20% of the users. A smaller number were the active networkers connecting friends to each other and the content. This distribution is not suprising given the theories of Malcolm Gladwell and others in The Tipping Point who identified certain personality types as naturally sharing and passionate guru types, often with multiple areas of interest and others as having vast networks of often fairly superficial connections.
Blogs, reviews, recommendations, and social networking profiles can offer businesses wonderful tools to not only connect with customers, discover emerging niches (see my post on the Long Tail) but also serve as vehicles to present their own brands' in-house and customer gurus expertise in a near real time, personalized and trustworthy fashion for public or even internal (customer service and product development) purposes.
See also the articles from trendwatching.com on which covers in detail how consumers are seeking their own Twinsumer via the web to help them make decisions.
Monday, July 11, 2005
We completed the trek in 6 days at the end of June 2005. Doing the Tour in 6 days is tough involving 10 hours per day of steady hiking. Of course, more leisurely versions are possible with most completing the trek in 10 days or so. Ideal timing is last week of June as snow is mostly off the passes and the crowds reasonable.
The trail features multiple "variations", all listed in the guidebooks and on the maps. Do them all if weather permits as often they cover somewhat higher routes and are truly spectacular. The variations include the Col du Tricot, Col des Fours, Col Sapin, and the capstone the Fenetre d' Aprette.
Guidebook: Cicerone Guide Tour du Mont Blanc is the best English language guidebook. Series also includes other superb English language guides to treks in the Alps and elsewhere. Of course there are any number of guided trips, some as we saw complete with donkeys to carry gear. REI, Wilderness Travel, etc.. all organize such treks. This said it is easy to go "unsupervised".
Gear: Travel light. We somewhat overpacked. Good non Gore-Tex (due to heat) light hiking boots are vital, trail running shoes possible but not recommended due to time on the trail daily. Otherwise 2 or 3 rapid drying t-shirts, shorts, wool socks, a fleece, and water proof shell are all you need. Do bring a pack towel and soap for those great end of day showers. A light weight sleeping bag liner is essential for the huts. Plan on a hydration bladder or a Nalgene and bike bottle. We clipped the bike bottle to the pack sternum harness for on the go sips. Wrap a decent amount of duct tape around a water or sun tan lotion bottle. Duck tape is fantastic for blisters and fixing just about anything. Quite literally there is no need to carry much more than would fit in a decent sized daypack. Note of course that doing the Tour earlier in June or in the fall might mean somewhat warmer clothes.
To give readers a day by day feel for the adventure:
Col des Montets (France near Chamonix) to Refuge de Belachat above Chamonix
Bouquetins Mountain Goats Prancing above Chamonix
The view from the Refuge de Belchat towards the Aguille du Gouter on Mont Blanc
Belachat to Refuge Nant Borrant above Contamines, France.
Nant Borrant to Refuge Elisabetta near Courmayeur Italy
Refugio Elisabetta to Refuge Bonnatti in Italian Val Ferret above Courmayeur
Refugio Bonnatti to Champex Switzerland
Who says hiking has to be miserable
The bar at the Refugio Elena. We stopped for an expresso on the way up the Col Ferret
Hikers headed up Col Ferret towards Switzerland from Refugio Elena
Champex Switzerland to Col de Balme over the Fenetre d' Arpette
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Four current initiatives by major brands come to mind. Nike ID and Timberland's Boot Studio both allow customers to design the colors of footwear (sole, uppers, laces, stitching, etc...) for about a 10% premium over the standard product. Nike ID offers a wide variety of models for different sports, you can even build the shoes on a large screen in Times Square using your mobile while Timbeland is focused on customizing its classic boot. LL Bean has a similar offering based on customizing its boat totes.
Honda has launched a mass customization program for its VTX1800 Extreme motorcycles:
"Imagine this one-of-a-kind opportunity to customize just about every aspect of your VTX1800. Start by choosing between five unique body Styles. Complement your Style selection with numerous factory-assembled options in the Build Specs section. Pick out one of several exclusive paint schemes in the Colors section. Then, to top it off, select from a wide array of Honda Genuine Accessories available through your Honda Dealer."
All of these initiatives clearly illustrate mass market brands creating mass customized products. The benefits include the positive feeling customers get from having a product made for them as well as the advance insights into preferred color and styles for their more mass market standard lines. These initiatives can also offer mass brands the opportunity to create their own dynamic nimble niches. And by building to order they can avoid gambles on what combination consumers really want, avoiding inventory costs and ultimately costly sales.
These internet based approaches to selling and building products also present interesting opportunities for new kinds of physical retail environments where the store becomes more of a showroom for look and feel, demonstration, and trial with the products ordered "online" at the retail store or sent via email or to a mobile as a link in an SMS message for further consideration and purchase. Just consider the efficiencies gained by the retailer, the touchpoints created bridging the online and physical world and most importantly the choices offered the consumer.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
A great example of the potential of the Long Tail (see my 4/1/2005 post) to capture a segment of a growing niche, ultra light outdoor equipment. Nemo, which has just launched its first tents which are incredibly light and are raised in about a minute. See the video. In addition to truly innovative design including air support instead of conventional poles Nemo has also presented itself with a first rate web site, won the grand prize for innovation at the world wide sporting goods show in Germany, and managed to equip the Nike Balance Bar advernture racing team.
They have combined passion, technology, hard core users, internet visibility, and PR to give themselves a shot at success. Not bad for a few guys in a mill in Nashua NH.
On the cautionary side of the "tale" the first tents are expensive and they use the highest performance fabrics which due to outdated flame resistance regulations in 7 states do not permit them to be sold in those states. Thus while their superb product, web site, PR and a core of appropriate high end dealers gives them the potential "infinite shelf space" of the internet the dirty yet real details of the physical world will at least temporarily create some friction to their sales in the marketplace.
Friday, April 01, 2005
Fascinating blog by Chris Anderson of Wired, actually the blog will become a book. The Long Tail of the marketplace or the curve leading from high volume "hits" with little variety to lower volume but greater variety is the province of a multitude of niches. The Long Tail has been enabled in recent years by the internet, advances in design and manufacturing technology and of course passionate users who can now get the word out.
These factors have given products infinite shelf space and the ability to rapidly morph. The contention is that this rapidly evolving commercial space is growing, with many small niches gradually increasing the overall volume of the tail. Important implications for start-ups who must realize that their niche may never become a huge, classic hit and for larger players who must now continually offer fast moving innovation, mass customization. and/or spend mightly on marketing and traditional shelf space-or see their volume continue to shrink.
Clearly The Long Tail is evident in categories such as download music and other products stored and sold entirely in a digital realm as here essentially the most traditionally obscure tune is just as likely to be bought as a hit from a major artist as they both share virtual shelf space equally and fans can direct friends to the product easily via the internet. This said The Long Tail and its implications is just as applicable to niche products of all sorts including those more physical in nature.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
I have been getting the Reveries Cool News of the Day free newsletter for years. 3 quick stories from the world of marketing, often culled first thing in the morning from leading newspapers. Quick read and always informative.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Classic XC Ski Race, aging athletes, and the power of the Internet to remove some of the mysteries of waxing
The race was the 50km Great Glen to Bretton Woods Nordic Adventure http://www.greatglentobrettonwoods.com/. Spectacular course which included 2 climbs of 500 and 1500 vertical feet with fast smooth downhills and some great views of Mount Washington before the snow started to fall. The Ibex Breakawy jacket (see my winter gear reviews below) was fantastic as with temperatures in the mid 20's, with long long sweaty climbs followed by very long fast downhills. I was always comfortable.
XC skiing is a great sport for aging athletes and particularily runners whose knees etc... can't take the pounding. I was amazed at the performance of the over 40 athletes including some of my old Dartmouth friends who out raced most of the youngsters!
Now to the waxing... XC ski waxing and particularily kick waxing has always been a mystery and a challenge. It still is but there is now lots of help. Internet weather sites and online wax wizards such as www.swixschool.no which will, with easy simple videos, show you how to prepare skis as well as another another swix page http://www.swixsport.com/waxwizard.asp?Lang=ENG&Sport=1 which will, based on the temperatures and humidity you found on the weather sites, give you specific instructions on which glide and kick waxes to use.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Related to trendwatching.com in that springwise presents concrete new business opportunities and actual businesses around the world related to the trends from trendwatching. Springwise site and their monthly newsletter (easy read and very well put together) focuses on business to consumer and emerging retail concepts. Ideas are collected from a worldwide network of trend spotters. In particular I find the world view of the site fascinating.
Friday, February 04, 2005
This is a most useful newsletter. Based on insights and material contributed by a large network of trend spotters around the world trendwatching synthesizes these threads into well documented (examples, pictures, etc..) categories and even suggests approaches and other opportunities to ride these trends.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
The Float is the road cousin of the Seek.
Info at: www.pearlizumi.com
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Monday, January 31, 2005
Jacket: Wool nylon blend Ibex Breakaway. www.ibexwear.com
Truly remarkable stuff. Front doesn't even look like wool as the nylon and wool are woven together so the wool is on the inside. Very windproof. The back where the sweat is greatest is a lighter all wool. Beautifully made and can be worn for many, many days without...stink! Performance wool is coming back strong, especially where it is blended with synthetic fibers.
Long underwear: Craft www.craft-usa.com
Have worn Patagonia capilene and Pearl Izumi Xstatic for years but this year trying Craft Scandanvia which I am finding superior as its slightly furry surface seems to wick and dry remarkably fast.
Shoes: Pearl Izumi Vis IQ www.pearlizumi.com
Pearl Izumi is new to running shoes (3d season) but their offerings are highly innovative. Uppers are essentially seamless and without all the extra trim and stitching. The material is woven differentially to support where it needs to. and the claim of fewer blisters is true. Great styling with clean lines.
I can't wait to try their 2005 shoes and especially the Seek, their new trail shoe. Pearl Izumi is demonstrating that a newcomer with a clean sheet of paper and a thirst to innovate can differentiate themselves in what is largely a me too, after Nike is done, industry heavily relying on a few sources of production shared by many competitors.
My recent Apple story is a demonstration they are truly firing on all cylinders.
Dec 16th I ordered an iPod mini for my son from the Apple web site. The first wow: they offered free engraving and free shipping. Making a mass produced product personal builds an even stronger bond between customer and brand.
Dec 19th Nathan's iPod shipped from...Shanghai, China via FedEx
Dec 23d iPod arrives in NH. The tracking shows a trip through the Phillipines, Anchorage, Indianapolis, and Boston. A huge wow, I have told friends the story over and over again.
My take: as Xmas drew near there wasn't enough time to ship into distribution for last orders so they were ready with direct from production line to my door in a week...from China. Truly remarkable logistics and coordination via the web. I am sure these last orders were the surprise in Apple's results and very profitable. And, by partnering with FedEx they compressed time to my door dramatically to capture all the remaining sales momentum in the key season.
Finally, when we took a look at the mini fine print on the clip we noted the very clever "Designed in California USA, Assembled in China", a succinct snapshot of current reality.
The busted spoke site is a good source of basic directions.
A major effort is underway to conserve thousands of acres of this the largest contiguous forest near the ocean in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic. http://www.yorklandtrust.org/mta2c.html.
My mother is heavily involved in this incredible effort
Trails at the summit of Mt. A are well marked with maps available. Busted spoke has a good description of the trails in the immediate area of the summit. http://www.bustedspoke.com/trail.php?tk=1006
More expansive and wild and in my view better running are the outlying areas of Mt A between the peak and the York River, in the water district lands. Trails in these outlying are not marked but easy to follow. Best bet is to use the following 1956 topo map: http://docs.unh.edu/ME/york56nw.jpg
Turn onto 91 at the Ford dealership on Rte 1 in York. I access the trails from the road just before Payneton on the map. Turn on the dirt road at the white sign Wild Iris Farm and park about 400 yards up on the left. Walk up the dirt road and look for the woods road at the top of the hill, turn right and you are on your way. Note that these trails are not marked and it is very easy to get lost. Have fun exploring!
I hope this blog will be a window out to the world and into my world.