guest - flak

newspaper subscription experiment

Back in November I subscribed to a few newspapers, the theory being that paying for a newspaper was the only way to save journalism, and thus democracy. Instead of choosing one, I just subscribed to them all, figuring I could sort it all out later. Here we are, a few months later, with the introductory rates expired, and it’s time to evaluate which of our contestants can advance to the next round. Our entrants are the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

First, I’ll note that I have a pretty much unlimited media budget. If I can afford to spend a hundred dollars per month poisoning myself with tequila, I can spend that much on information. So it’s entirely possible for there to be three winners; this isn’t necessarily a contest of elimination.

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Posted 2017-02-14 16:24:23 by tedu Updated: 2017-02-14 16:24:23
Tagged: business

an enchanted forest fable

One day you wake up, infused with the entrepreneurial spirit. Enthused even. The time has come to bring forth your vision of a better future. You hike up the road to magic mountain to meet the wizard. Impressed with your spark, he gives you his blessing and so you go to work. Soon, your dream will become reality. Banana peeling as a service.

A few short months later, and you already have 101 customers. Growth is spectacular! Just like the wizard and his magic beans promised. Of course, 99 of those customers are fellow inhabitants of magic mountain and the other two are your mom and college roommate, but magic growth is magic growth.

A few long months later, and you still have 101 customers. But not to worry. Elsewhere on magic mountain there’s a deep fried burritos as a service dream become reality, and they actually have paying muggle customers. With only a tiny pivot, your banana peeling expertise can become burrito unwrapping expertise. You are a true master of the monad. And so, your incredible journey synergizes into theirs.

Some may ask why it was necessary to absorb an entire village of banana peelers instead of hiring a single burrito unwrapper, and why it was necesssary to pay everyone so many millions of hexes, but that’s just quibbling. The council of elder wizards met under the moonlight and decided this was the happiest outcome for everyone.

The end.

Posted 2016-11-04 19:02:18 by tedu Updated: 2016-11-04 19:02:18
Tagged: business

new world economy

The New Yorker money issue, October 10. There’s some good articles about evolving, er, disrupting, business practices.

There’s several short articles under the Work For Hire heading. Plus some more from an earlier issue.

The Anti-Uber Juno promises to treat its drivers with respect. More importantly, they even get stock in the company, so when they get replaced by self driving cars, at least they still have something. They’re in a tough spot though, because nobody wants to fund them, expecting Uber to succeed. Especially those firms that have already poured billions of dollars into Uber, the first company to weaponize money. I’m not sure if Uber is literally the first to try outburning rivals, but they are doing it an extraordinary level. By the time Uber’s investors demand profits, its competitors will be out of business. Interesting point that unlike a Walmart competitor that tries to move into town and capitalize on unhappy employees, Juno can share employees with Uber. You can’t work in two superstores at once, but you can drive around with two smartphones.

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Posted 2016-10-23 22:31:46 by tedu Updated: 2016-10-23 22:39:32
Tagged: business magreview

top of the market puts

There have been a number of experts warning that the stock market is due for a crash. There’s always people saying that, but it seems to have picked up since the summer. I don’t know anything about this; my crystal ball was stolen by a dark elf. But the possibility of a sharp decline is what makes the rest of this post interesting.

One trading strategy is to sell put options. You can sell puts on individual stocks or on an index. (Or anything, really). In exchange for a payment, you agree to potentially purchase some asset at a fixed price until the option expires. A put option is essentially insurance. Selling a put is the same as insuring an asset against a decline in value. To pick a stock I have no particular attachment to, MMM is currently trading around $180. If I’ve got a cool $17500 cash lying around, I might sell a one month put option with a strike price of 175 at $1.00. I’m predicting that MMM will do alright in the near future, so if all goes according to plan the option will expire worthless and I’ll pocket an easy $100. That’s an annualized return of 7.0%. Ignoring downside. (Option contracts are for 100 shares, hence the 100 x 175 cash requirement (in the event I’m forced to complete the purchase) and 100 x 1 income.)

Continue reading top of the market puts...

Posted 2016-08-26 05:52:17 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-26 07:32:01
Tagged: business

the future is arriving too fast

Because I am old, sometimes instead of watching new original content, I want to watch old preexisting content which is not available on Netflix or any other streaming service. Fortunately, there is a solution. Netflix also has a service which will mail me plastic circles that I can watch by putting them in my plastic circle player. I can manage the queue of such circles by using my browser. Ah, the wonders of technology.

Also because I am old, sometimes I go talk with other old people, in person, at bars and such. Mostly we reminisce about the old days, when we had to seduce people with words instead of pictures of our junk. But sometimes the conversation turns to entertainment, such as movies. Somebody might claim that Jupiter Ascending by the Wachowskis is the spiritual successor to The Matrix. This is obviously a claim that needs to be seen to be believed. (Though I recommend neither seeing nor believing.)

Continue reading the future is arriving too fast...

Posted 2016-04-06 18:35:40 by tedu Updated: 2016-04-06 18:35:40
Tagged: business rants web

Indego - Philly bike share review

Joining the ranks of bike share programs in other cities, Indego is Philadelphia’s version. The basic concept is the same and pretty simple. You check out a bicycle from one of many kiosks located about the city, ride around, then return it to an empty dock when done. The program is manufactured by B-cycle but owned by Philadelphia; it’s similar but not identical to programs in other cities, such as Austin or Denver.

overview

There are three plans available. For $4 per 30 minutes, the walk up plan lets you check out a bike with a credit card. This is clearly the tourist and visitor plan. The flex plan, with a $10 annual fee, gets you a key fob for easier access and extends your $4 to an hour long ride. I’m not sure who this plan is for. The Indego30 plan is $15 per 30 days, but includes an unlimited number for one hour rides. This is the plan for locals.

Continue reading Indego - Philly bike share review...

Posted 2015-07-09 14:56:51 by tedu Updated: 2015-07-09 14:56:51
Tagged: business philly review

funding topologies

“Startup culture starting to resemble a pyramid that has folded in on itself, exploring funding topologies Ponzi never dreamed of” - Pinboard

Funding topology is definitely a subject worthy of further research.

Posted 2014-10-03 18:24:49 by tedu Updated: 2014-10-03 18:24:49
Tagged: business quote

the language of money

From the New Yorker, Money Talks - Learning the language of finance. For a little while I thought this article was going somewhere, but as I read more I decided I don’t like it much at all. It positions itself as piercing the veil of obscurity surrounding financial and economic jargon, but then ultimately contributes even more confusion to the field.

Yes, the field of finance and economics (let’s lump them together) have a lot of specialized jargon. If you don’t understand what a “bear market” is, you’ll be left out of the conversation, and since finance undoubtedly has an impact on your life, this is bad. But it’s no different than many other fields. Practically every day the local meteorologist mutters something about a “cold front” (except when they’re muttering about an “occluded front”, whatever the hell that is). A doctor once told me to avoid “excessive ambulation” (no joke). Jargon is jargon. It’s a part of every field of study.

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Posted 2014-08-01 19:15:51 by tedu Updated: 2014-08-01 19:15:51
Tagged: business language magreview

disrupting innovation theory

Some thoughts on The Disruption Machine. I only just read it, but apparently I’m late to the party. I can’t help but think it’s funny that writing up a review of an article three days before it’s publication counts as too late. (I think it arrived on Wednesday, I read it yesterday at lunch, and today I’m writing. I apologize for my tardiness.)

The article is apparently a rebuttal to The Innovator’s Dilemma, but I think it’s more a counterpoint to the current cult of disruption. Or as the subtitle puts it, “What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.” I think the point is not to prove Christensen wrong, but to demonstrate that the cult of disruption’s holy text is infallible. I myself haven’t read the book, just forum comments telling me what it’s about. Whether those commenters read the book or merely parrot the comments of others, I don’t know, but The Disruption Machine does appear to accurately capture the popular perception of disruption theory.

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Posted 2014-06-20 19:34:57 by tedu Updated: 2014-06-20 19:36:07
Tagged: business magreview quote thoughts

the wrong way to beg for money

Because it’s summer and therefore nice and warm (or terribly, impossibly warm) out, I go outside and walk around the city. Because it’s a city, that means people ask me for money. Sometimes it’s grizzled old men sitting on a stoop. Sometimes it’s chipper young people who jump in front of me. Guess which group this post is about.

It’s one thing (an annoying thing, but borderline acceptable) to stand in the middle of the sidewalk so that I have to go around instead of walking in a straight line. Watching me course correct, then side stepping to block my path and accost me is never acceptable. I deal with this by making a mental note of the responsible organization and then blacklisting them for one month. Penalties accrue. This summer’s front runner appears to be Planned Parenthood, though it will be some time before they overtake the all time record holder. Two summers ago the ACLU accosted me more than once per day on average, earning them an effective lifetime ban.

The stupid part is I’m generally in agreement with these organizations, disagreeing more in degree than kind. The problem seems to be that unlike the local neighborhood homeless beggars, the political beggars are shipped in from elsewhere. I imagine the college job fair pitch goes something like “travel the country and harass strangers with like minded hotties”. The result is that it’s a new beggar every day with no recollection of the previous dozen encounters. Even the duck tour people learn to recognize me as a resident and leave me alone. (Presumably the political beggars set up shop all summer long to get in on the tourist trade, but since the duck tour peddlers have claimed all the good corners, they get pushed out to areas that are in fact mostly locals.)

Posted 2014-06-20 19:34:46 by tedu Updated: 2014-06-20 19:34:46
Tagged: business philly politics rants

whisk.me

Having lunch today in Startup Valley, breathing in the entrepreneurship and prepping my elevator pitches. Here’s my latest startup idea: Whiskme.

The number of small batch distilleries has increased tenfold in the past ten years, making it harder than ever for connoisseurs to sample the market’s many offerings. Whiskme is a peer to peer app that leverages the sharing economy to deliver rare and exotic whisky (and occasional whiskey) right to your door. Users of our location aware social network app list the contents of their whisky collection that they are willing to trade, and identify samples they would like to try. Then our advanced cloud based platform processes these requests using sophisticated machine learning algorithms to create potential swap pairs. When a match is found, both parties are notified via our app and a Lyft car is automatically dispatched to handle the physical transport. You never need to leave your home!

Posted 2014-06-06 20:55:53 by tedu Updated: 2014-06-06 20:55:53
Tagged: business rants

erroneous delayed shipment notification

Not really a failing of the email format, but of its contents. Last weekend I ordered a new iPhone for my dad. It was supposed to arrive today. Yesterday, Apple sends me an email that it’s going to ship soon and will arrive next week. That’s no good. I call Apple and talk to a real person on the phone, who confirms the phone is in Apple’s warehouse, they’re going to ship it real soon now, and I should expect it next week. That’s too late, so I cancel the order, but it’s too late for that too, so instead it’s converted to a return request. Today the phone arrived after all. What a waste of time and frustration.

I looked up the tracking number after it arrived. It was shipped UPS ground from a nearby warehouse last night. It’s close by (and presorted, etc.), so even ground shipments arrive in one day. Apparently Apple’s actual shipping logistics program knows this, which is why I was originally promised a delivery date of today. (Or conversely, it explains why the software knew it could meet the promised deadline even with a last minute ground shipment.) But Apple’s email the customer software doesn’t know this.

Instead, I imagine the notifier was triggered when my phone was being taken off the shelf and prepared for shipment. It then looks up my order in the database, sees ground shipping, and then just slaps the usual 3-5 day bracket around the delivery estimate. The problem is the 3-5 day window from the front page of ups.com doesn’t apply to this route. (ups.com even has a shipping calculator which will tell you that this ground shipment only takes one day. I don’t know where Apple’s email notifier gets its misinformation.)

Root cause analysis: don’t use two databases when only one has the correct information.

Posted 2013-12-19 21:40:44 by tedu Updated: 2013-12-19 21:40:44
Tagged: business mailfail rants

i disregard your request

I hate Sprint with the burning fury of a thousand suns, but I have to admit their latest ad series featuring James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell is fantastic. My favorite is Steve’s Facebook Post.

Posted 2013-12-01 19:42:08 by tedu Updated: 2013-12-01 19:42:08
Tagged: business quote

price discriminatory reviews

Yesterday Amazon offered up as their deal of the day this 31 disc boxed set of Harry Potter movies for the bargain price of $250, compared to the list price of $500 or the $345 they are selling it for today. I was disappointed not to find the weight listed in the product description, but spent a little time poking around the customer reviews. Unlike newspaper comments, even I sometimes find user contributed reviews interesting or helpful.

A couple quick facts. 519 total reviews. 292 (56%) one star. 154 (30%) five star. Not many in between. Of the one star reviews, I couldn’t find any verified purchases. I counted 93 (60%) verified among the five star reviews. What to make of this?

I’m not really sure how useful “too expensive” one star reviews are. I’m more than capable of looking at the price myself. What I want to learn from a review is if the product delivered is the product promised. If you haven’t purchased the product, you can’t tell me that. That’s why I love the verified purchase tag they’ve added to reviews. You have to be a pretty dedicated fanboy to buy a competitor’s product to write a disparaging review. The five star reviews aren’t that helpful either, as I do think you need to have more dollars than sense to purchase this monstrosity. Makes me wonder if anybody bought it just so they could write a review and brag about it.

In the grand scheme of things, this same problem exists in reviews of just about every (near) luxury item. There’s the haters who can only complain about the price and about how you can make your own with only $20 in materials from Walmart. And there’s the gushers, who can only wax poetic about how happy their purchase made them without ever describing their usage of the product.

Posted 2013-03-29 02:01:16 by tedu Updated: 2013-03-30 22:21:14
Tagged: business

gnome squad

I happened to be in Best Buy today and noticed the computer department had sprouted a little Google Chromebook booth next to the Apple section. It was manned by a Google shirt and badge wearing dude, kind of a hybrid Geek Squad Apple Genius type, by way of Middle-earth. Whatever, people can look however they like. He did, however, have the whole super nerd speech thing down. Not just the language but the tone radiated the extremely smug, slightly condescending attitude that I’ve previously only encountered in Hollywood depictions, never real life. And I’ve dealt with some pretty nerdy types. As for the Pixel he was pimping, his main point was that it has the highest resolution laptop screen in the world (technically arguable) and how the Pixel could natively display 4k video (not even close to true), before trying to say it was both a computer and a tablet and could run the apps for both (too vague to be entirely falsifiable). To say the least, the shopping demographic in this particular South Philly Best Buy did not find him particularly endearing. He made it clear he didn’t work for the store (if you want to buy anything, talk to somebody in a blue shirt), but if he’s somebody’s idea of a product ambassador, relations between humans and halflings are not looking good.

Posted 2013-03-29 02:01:03 by tedu Updated: 2013-03-29 02:01:03
Tagged: business philly rants

it’s a hard turk life

I signed up for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service a little while ago. As a worker. My theory was, I’m sitting around watching Glee, but there’s all this plot and drama stuff I don’t care about happening between the Journey song performances. I could read or code or something, but then I get sucked into that and miss the song. A micro tasklet I could complete in a few seconds sounded like just the thing, and making five cents a minute was five cents more than I normally make watching TV.

tasks

First task I found was to categorize government purchase orders by industry, using a dropdown containing approximately 3000 categories, so that enterprising companies in those industries could find and bid on the orders. Purchase order was for 30 replacement QWE-789654 parts. What are they? There’s a link to more info, which leads to another link, and another. At some point I landed on some DoD splash screen where they assured me they were most definitely logging all activity and I had to assure them I most definitely wasn’t up to no good. After this all I learned was that somebody, somewhere, wanted more QWE-789654s. Was this a part kept in stock? There’s a category for that. Maybe it would need to be manufactured. That could be foundry services. But is it plastic, ceramic, or metal? If metal, ferrous or non-ferrous? I gave up, but it was fun to imagine how this order found its way to me. Some military base captain ran out of QWE-789654s (I can only imagine the local slang used to refer to this part), and he needs to reorder them. But due to procedural restrictions, he can’t just send Private Pyle out to pick some up; he’s got to fill out the form and send it into the bid-o-matic. He knows exactly which company is going to get the order and they know it, too, but nobody gets paid until the order does a full circuit of the requisition system.

Continue reading it’s a hard turk life...

Posted 2013-03-07 19:28:20 by tedu Updated: 2013-03-07 19:35:22
Tagged: business review