Tuesday, January 29, 2008

From the you have got to be kidding me department

"I don't want people to get the wrong idea. It's not that we're starting a swinger club in mid-air or something like that," he added. "We're a perfectly normal holiday company."

Clearly they seem to have redefined what "perfectly normal " means. The entire article -> "Fly naked on Germany's first nudist holiday flight".

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Slow boil kills the frog

Both of these are headlines from yesterday's news
A computer tape containing personal data of 650,000 customers of about 230 retailers including J.C. Penney Co is missing, credit card issuer GE Money said on Friday.
A laptop containing the personal details of 600,000 new and prospective military recruits has been stolen, the Ministry of Defense said Friday, the latest in a series of government blunders over data.

230 retailers... what does that mean? Should I switch over to cash only. WT$%$ ! I assume yesterday was a normal news day. Should I just assume that these kind of gaffe's are the norm in the modern world or should i be worried?

I admit, I do not get my credit report from Equifax/Experian/Transunion every 4 months. I guess I will have to start doing that. The worrying part here is that as the financial industry works its darnest to make every person use their birth right to credit card, it continues to exacerbate the worst case scenario. The credit card user who does not pay his/her monthly bills in full is most likely also the user who has no idea of the risks he is being exposed to.

Anyways rants aside. Any suggestion for practical solutions to this problem, should I be looking into something like "lifelock" or is one of those long term attitude adjustment problems?

I came across this recommendation to apply for a credit freeze with the three major credit bureaus. I am looking into this and if it is not a major hassle, I might go ahead and do this. I urge you to do the same :-) and keep me posted on anything you might find as well.

How not to title your article

I saw this title pop up on google news reader recently,

Crash Landing Pilot John Coward Is a Hero

:-) it is hard to imagine that this was not intentional.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

America's most wired cities

Forbes published their list of America's top 25 most wired cities. I kind of lost interest when their definition of measurement metric started to go past 75 words. All I wanted to say was that here is another example of my instincts failing me, I was surprised to see Austin did not crack this list.
Forbes most wired cities.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quotable - Yossi Vardi

“We have become two countries: a high-tech one with few children and very high incomes, and a poor one with lots of kids,”

“Three major viral products emerged from this part of the world: the Bible 2,700 years ago, Jesus 2,000 years ago and ICQ ten years ago,” he jokes. Search for ICQ using Google and there are 675m matches, he points out, compared with 160m for the Bible and 178m for Jesus."

Context - At the age of 27 he was appointed director-general of Israel's development ministry and then held a similar job at the energy ministry. Later he led or helped to found some 60 companies such as Israel Chemicals, the Israel Oil Company and ITL Optronics. Then, in 1996, he invested in his first internet start-up, Mirabilis, the company behind ICQ.

“PowerPoint presentations damage your brain—if you look at too many, you become immoral,”

“Happiness is relative, the more successful the high-tech sector, the more frustrated and unhappy the rest of society could become.”

The whole article runs the length of page and is available at the economist web site. It is worth a read, to me it is a good reminder that success is a healthy dose of luck combined with backing your strength and individuality. IOW, the fact that his profile is so different from your typical "US Entrepreneur" profile gives me lot of hope.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Product Management lessons from watching Season III of Food Networks "Next Big Star"

I just finished watching the marathon new years special by Food Network. They aired the entire season of Food Networks "Next Big Star". I surprisingly got into it. Let me clarify, I am not a fan of reality shows, they seem phony, pretentious, and if anything "un"real to me. They seem as far removed from real life as can be except for the oxymoron categorization. The only reality show I have watched is Project Runway (thanks to my lovely wife) and the season finale of "The Biggest Loser" both Bravo shows. I think I got into "Next Big Star" because it was surprisingly real, and it is to date the most unpretentious and honest reality show that I have watched. I was trying capture the elements that gave it credibility and I think there is a good lesson in product management here.

  • Be very clear on your product's core competency - Food Network's product is NOT recipes, NOT travel, NOT anything else. It is television and the way to measure that is audience size and ratings. Their integrity to their product was very compelling to me. This reality show was a clear means to an end -> the end being identify the next personality who will contribute to Food Networks ratings and differentiations vs other TV stations involving food. The contest itself helped with a temporary ratings boost I am sure but the contest was not the end. This is an important distinction to make, with "The Apprentice" for instance the contest is the end and that reeks of make-believe crap. This is why this reality TV is so much better than "Top Chef"(Top Chef of what!?! - this is like getting the "world's greatest dad" mug from your kid and there is no context.)
  • Make-believe is insulting to end-users. Don't "make" something believable if you can deliver the real thing. I was impressed that the judges for the show were Food TV's Senior VP of Programming and Production and its VP of marketing. These are people whose job it is to grow the product. This made it "real" because in the real world it is exactly these people who would be making these decisions. They did not bring random celebrities to judge the competition or random celebrities to pretend like they understand the product.
  • You (yes you reading this) are not your product's typical end user: I understand that it is impossible to be a product manager unless you can abstract to some extent but there always will be differences in opinion amongst your user base on all aspects of the product. Accept it, learn from it, and most importantly grow your product through it. This point was struck home for me when I found myself thinking how unbelievably stupid the judges were being in eliminating Amy and retaining Jag and Rory. I was pissed! but thinking on why I was getting so pissed was what led to this point.
  • Be prepared to be flexible: The judges thought they had picked the best two contestants for the finale (Jag and Rory). Jag was eliminated since he had fabricated history and so it was Rory vs Amy and Amy won. *knock knock* - man these guys are lucky. Americans picked the contestant they had previously eliminated (further confirming my instincts *grin*). Of course hindsight is 50/50 but my point here is that they responded to Jag's revelations admirably and ended up doing a better job than if there had been no bump in the road.
Any ways :-) I enjoyed this a lot. Happy 2008 to you and all your loved ones.