Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quotable - Warren Buffet

Complete interview here


Have there been instances in your career where you have been tempted to deviate from your strategy and if so, how did you handle that?


I’m not that type. I’m not disciplined. I just naturally want to do things that make sense. In my personal life too, I don’t care what other rich people are doing. I don’t want a 405 foot boat just because someone else has a 400 foot boat. Some of my friends have big boats where 55 people are serving 14. Of those 55, some will be stealing from you, some will be sleeping with each other, and I just don’t want to deal with that. My friends have the boats, so I’m the ultimate freeloader. I don’t need multiple houses. If I wanted to do something wild & crazy I could do it, but Anna Nicole Smith is gone. Reminds me of the story of the 60 year old man that got a 25 year old to marry him. When his friends asked how he did it, he replied, “I told her I was 90.”


At the Wesco annual meeting last year, Charlie said, "The best way to get success is to deserve success". Do you recall anything from your experience which best demonstrates how you were able to position yourself to deserve success, and do you have any advice for students on how they can position themselves to deserve success as well?


Behaving decent is a large part of it. Out of school I offered to work for Graham for free and he said I was overpriced. I tried to be useful and visible to him. I gave him stock tips and kept up with him. Almost always good things come from good behavior. Don’t keep score in life. Tom Murphy does not keep score. He keeps doing 20 things for me and I can only hope to return the favor. Keeping score is terrible in marriage and terrible in business. I put myself in the seller’s shoes. With most humans there is a great desire to reciprocate. If you do something for them, they will do 2X for you. How rare is it to work during lunch hours and be the first one there in the morning. You’ll get noticed if you do something extra. It’s good to have a willingness to pitch in when you aren’t going to get credit for it. Charlie and I partnered up in 1959. We always both think we’re right. We disagree but we’ve never fought. And we’ve never held past mistakes over each other’s heads. I recommend reading “Poor Charlie’s Almanack”. It’s amazing, has sold 50,000 copies and it’s still sold independently.


What do you think of aggregate infrastructure investment to stimulate the economy?


I think the best way to stimulate the economy is to give money to the poor. They will spend it. Don’t give it to guys like me. Infrastructure investment makes sense, but we haven’t done it in a while and it won’t do anything for the next 6-12 months. Infrastructure is not big relative to GDP. We are a consumer-driven society, spending 106% of production.

Pushing the limites of packaging - Bizzare

Hat tips: article source, picture source

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Product Management and Product Design

This is something I have been mulling over for a little while now.
My company's product management is organized in a classic pragmatic marketing model. This is great! I am serious, i continue to hear horror stories from friends about companies where product management is either in sales, engineering or marketing and thus is subverted for that functional need instead of operating strategically. So I do deeply appreciate my situation.

The only flaw imo in the pragmatic model is that it does not seem to highlight the amount of messiness and collaboration required to design and deliver a good product.

You have vertically focused product managers, technical product managers, product marketing managers, product architects and usability engineers(designers?). These are typical roles that you see in most software companies. The challenge is that none of these roles are responsible for product design. Architects lay out the architecture (duh!), marketing managers lay out the buying process and competitive info, technical product managers drive requirements to engineering and vertical product managers identify market problems and prioritize them. Out of all this information arises a "product" once, twice or 8 times a year... The problem is, a collection of these requirements does not a product design make!

That is like saying an elephant was designed from the need to
a. create a mammal
b. that is a herbivore
c. weighs xx tons
d. has a life span of zz years
e. will occupy a volume of ccc cubic inches and
f. have unique features that permit it to use suction to draw water and dig through roots.

blah blah blah you get it. These requirements above do not capture the zeitgeist of an elephant. So for now I am hoping to design a product intentionally instead of as a side effect. I will let you know how it turns out.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Product Management and market problems

Lunch conversation excerpt:
me: woah.... that is un-freaking believable.
A: You think as a product manager you have an idea of what a product/market problem looks like and then you hear about something like this.
C: Yup it is absolutely true. The chair manufacturers are dealing with this specific problem in casinos.

(C used to be a product manager for a company whose target market is casinos)

So what is the problem -> It turns out that "customers" tend to get so into the games they are playing that they often refuse to get up to use the restrooms. Thus casinos are constantly finding themselves with soiled chairs at the end of the day.

Hrmm I wonder if these customers are wondering if they have a teeny-weeny addiction problem.

The problems of the future - Youtube's board discusses Pakistani politics.

Youtube recently had a global site outage. According to Youtube this is because of an ISP based in Pakistan. Politics aside, what happened here is that the government wanted the ISP to block access to Youtube and it sounds like the ISP took a sledgehammer to tap in a nail.

Here is another way to look at it, if the Pakistani government wanted to block access to Victoria's Secret catalogs to its mass population, it is easy to do. Locate all points of entry and destroy the printed material. Unfortunately restricting access to Youtube is a bit trickier, routing protocols are smarter than the 20 words used to describe them in Wired.
My point being, I think we are going to see a lot more of this in the future. The good news is that clumsy attempts on information restriction will now be globally noticed, the bad news is that in many cases (like this one) the effects will also be globally felt.

Btw, I heard on NPR this morning that Taliban has given cell phone companies three days to turn of their cell towers at night (to prevent US troops from tracking them through their cell phone usage) . After three days they plan on blowing up cell phone towers that operate through the night.

Welcome to the era where the CEO and technology companies have to discuss terrorist demands in their board meetings. This was inevitable as technology kept moving towards becoming an indispensable commodity like energy. Well it is here now... enjoy

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Health Care - Perceptions - Contd...

More health care news from California. Health Net, Inc was ordered by a judge to pay 9 million dollars to the defendant. It turns out that she had lied to them about prior conditions and her weight but their timing was beyond pathetic. They apparently rescinded the woman's policy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Seriously! are you people Nuts!

Either health care companies do not have PR folks or their PR people lack common sense.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Paging Trading Spaces

Move over Amy Devers, my wife has you in her scope :-). Ladies and gentlemen this is my wife's latest pursuit of her passion and it is freaking good! if I may say so myself. We got some serious talent in the house people and it is not me.

Great job babe!

p.s "paging" trading spaces... get it?

To our Mc Friends

This is a honest to goodness patent approved by the uspto. It is titled " Method of exercising a cat". I think you guys should patent the method of exercising a dog using fairies before some one else does.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Link spam

A vc pitch for a company that makes undershirts targeted at VC's.

Love free market trends!!

The Next President: Update

From the market at Intrade, here are the probabilities as of this morning:
P(Obama) = 0.54
P(McCain) = 0.35
P(Clinton) = 0.11

Go here for more on Intrade.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Improvements to the world must be highly contextualized

I saw a wonderful video (TED talks) presented by Dr Hans Rosling. Dr Rosling is well known for his unique approach to data visualization. I highly recommend this video.
While it certainly is educational in its core area of poverty, what was truly inspiring to me was how it made me question my assumptions.

At one point in the video Dr Rosling says the challenge he was facing with his students was not "ignorance" but rather "prejudice". This truth applies irrespective of what you do in your life.

Watch this video, it is worth your time :-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My family just got a little closer

Welcome back Aswin :-) You went from point A to point B faster than I could comprehend. Glad you are back here.


I see the upcoming Android roadmap as a reality test between two product development/design philosophies.

a. It is important to NOT design by committee and have firm and clear control over the product's form, function and usability. Listen to the market but deliver via a vision. More crudely stated = "Always Listen to the customer but the customer is not always right"

b. Open source philosophies can translate to product design as well as development. I see Android as an example of both form and function going through consensus as opposed to a single point of control/vision. More crudely stated = "Let the market define, design and develop what they want".

I am eager to see where this goes.

Taking Risks

I was having lunch with Rick; one of our development managers (real name used so as to give credit where credit is due). He mentioned that one of his values is to encourage his team to embrace risks.

It was then I realized that I actually was in an organization which was not hypocritical. I had gotten used to working for people/companies which liked the buzz word of "smart risks" but did not quite understand what taking a risk means. In my past experience I was encouraged to take risks as long as we did not lose money, lose a sale or have a bad launch. ummmm hello :-) ...

Anyway, thanks Rick and woot! me that I work in an otufit which so far is rocking hard. I am looking forward to creating products which change lives and delight our market. Anything less is not good enough.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ouch! perception is reality?

The title of this article indicates strong emotions -> "Doctors Outraged at Blue Cross Request". Even accounting for the fact that might have a bias this is a disaster from the perspective of BCBS of California. What were they thinking?
My standing assumption is that managed health care started as an attempt to provide better health care to the majority of the population while bringing the transparency of an open market system to the process. It looks like the somewhere along way the way the second became more important than the first.
If this is not the case, then BCBS of Cali. better start doing some damage control or explain their intentions since this does not look good. I am not saying that their patients (or customers?) should get away with lying but the seemed to have dropped the ball in their search for a solution to the problem.

I am willing to give BCBS the benefit of the doubt, I am hoping that their initiative is to encourage their patients not to lie with them so they can do a better job of providing good care while keeping costs down. In either case they better clarify their motive before people start clarifying it for them.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Simple solutions that change the world

Came across this courtesy of Guy Kawasaki's blog. Beautiful :-) I am thinking of donating money to playpumps.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

My alignment with the presidential hopefuls

My wife sent me this link to a poll that estimates how much my views align with a given presidential candidates. Thanks kim :-)

84% John McCain
81% Mitt Romney
74% Mike Huckabee
72% Rudy Giuliani
69% Fred Thompson
68% Tom Tancredo
58% Hillary Clinton
56% Ron Paul
56% Barack Obama
54% Bill Richardson
53% Chris Dodd
52% John Edwards
49% Joe Biden
30% Mike Gravel
29% Dennis Kucinich

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Quotable - CK Prahalad

Entrepreneurs should use Price - Profit = Design as their guiding principle rather than the shortage economy paradigm of Cost + Profit = Price. "Challenge and change the price performance equations. If we can satisfy 500 million (poor) customers in India by producing world-class quality, then that can become the biggest export opportunity in the world," Prahalad said.

N. Gopalaswami, India's chief election commissioner, spoke about entrepreneurship in government. "The biggest enterprise in India is maintaining democracy. Our elections, involving 700 million voters, are the single largest event management exercise in the world,"

From the article ->C.K. Prahalad: 'The Poor Deserve World-Class Products and Services'

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Know your buyer's dream not just the need

It is important for a company to not just think of its customers as people who get what they paid for but instead as people who get "the story" they paid for. This story (via kim) is a great example of that.


Ritzy Fifth Avenue jeweler Tiffany & Co. failed to ship Chris' grandfather a bracelet for his wife in time for Christmas. We expect a certain level of service from high-end stores, but Tiffany's extravagant amends caught us by surprise.

My grandfather ordered an engraved Tiffany silver bracelet as a surprise Christmas gift for my grandmother. He had custom engraving put on the bracelet, and had arranged for the bracelet to be delivered to my house about 2 weeks before Christmas. Two weeks after the order (when we should've received the bracelet), there was no bracelet. We gave it another week, and the my grandfather emailed Tiffany customer support. He received an automated response stating that because of the overwhelming Christmas rush, he needed to contact customer support via their 800 number. Of course, the 800 number was impossible to get through to also.

My grandfather, being the laid back man that he is, wasn't really angry, but he wanted to know what was going on with the bracelet. Tiffany customer service ended up calling him on the Friday before Christmas. As luck would have it, he was out fishing, and my grandmother talked to them, thus ruining the surprise. When he returned home, he was able to actually get through to the rep who called him earlier. She informed him that because of a Christmas rush they were not expecting, the bracelet would not be arriving before Christmas. To make up for the fact that they had ruined the surprise and would not be getting the bracelet to my grandfather before Christmas, they would be giving him the order FREE. He asked to clarify, asking if they just meant the shipping or the engraving free, but no, the ENTIRE COST of the order was FREE. Of course, he was blown away (after all, this is a $255 bracelet, plus the cost of engraving and shipping).

Tiffany ended up shipping the bracelet on Saturday, overnighting it to my house where I received it on Monday. There was no invoice or such in the box, so we were still wondering IF the bracelet was actually going to be free (with the final call coming from the credit card bill). Sure enough, when the credit card bill came that would've contained the charge, there was absolutely no charges from Tiffany.

So, it's nice to know that there are indeed some companies who want to keep their reputation that treat their customers well.

Sometimes you get the service you intended to pay for. For Tiffany, which stocks $210,000 bracelets, $255 isn't much to keep the customer happy and willing to consider larger purchases.

Good job Tiffany's.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

History lessons from the family

My wife recently got a set of boxes containing stuff that belonged to her mom. As she was going through the contents she uncovered a couple of porcelain dolls of British soldiers. At the bottom they had the words "made in occupied Japan" printed on them. So I turned to the highly trusted Wikipedia as usual and found this ->

At the end of the Second World War, Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers, led by the United States with contributions from Australia, India, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. This was the first time since the unification of Japan that the island nation had been occupied by a foreign power. The San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, marked the end of the Allied occupation, and when it went into effect on April 28, 1952, Japan was once again an independent state.

I am fascinated by this. It was less than an average human life span ago (55 years ago) that Japan was considered an "occupied nation". India contributed towards the occupation of Japan. I never knew that there was a window between India's slavery and freedom where it helped with the occupation of another country. There is more thought provoking material here.

What struck me most was the fact that living in a time of accelerated rate-of-change makes us give disproportionate importance to our local history over the past. Reminds me of the quote that talks about "people who don't know history are doomed to repeat it".

I think there is a lot to be gained from slowing down, and looking back to where we came from and drawing deep breaths. Slow down grasshopper slow down.

note: picture above is not of the actual doll we own but similar.

First looks can be deceptive

On first glance this post reads like a damning indictment. On second thoughts it may be a second (most like 999999th) chance for the outlook team. The fact that this user,
  1. Continues to use outlook in spite of 67 "known" issues :)
  2. Takes the time and energy to document and detail the known issues.
tells me that he gets enough value out of outlook not to walk away in apathy (or might be the company standard, blah blah. I get it I cannot positively conclude that outlook is adding value from this).

My point is simply just that Outlook has done a good job of solving the base problem. It is time for it to catch up with the myriad of usability and interaction issues defined here.

In other words the original user persona defined for Outlook has changed over time and it is the product's responsibility to keep up.