Have Fun Now – Instant Discounts on Last Minute Activities

How often do you get the whim to just go see a play or concert. Have you ever found yourself needing to plan an afternoon adventure for you and your friends or a lover? It seems to me, this should be a simple effort, but after doing some research, I didn’t quite find what I was looking for. There are plenty of ways to get discount coupons for everything from a dinner out to the hottest adventure theme park, but wouldn’t it be nice to browse all available activities in one place? My idea is to create a marketplace for individual businesses to post their services and provide instant day of discounts when their supply is shorter then their demand. For example, if you run a small speed boat rental company and you’ve got a weekend coming up that is low on bookings, you could post a special offer on this site to close out the gap. For the system to truly be awesome, it would have to be flexible for the businesses to load their excess capacity and cover enough different types of activities that it’s interesting to the consumer. The theatre industry has done well at this with their “half price” tickets at specific box offices. They sell a deeply discounted ticket on the day of the show when they didn’t sell enough seats. It’s obviously beneficial to the business as this is revenue otherwise lost.
To get really fancy you could add a recommendation engine to it based on previous activities purchased and/or recommendations from others with similar interests.

Why would Google want to provide free WiFi?

At first glance of this opportunity to provide a metropolitan WiFi network for San Francisco, one assumes that the provider would pay for it by either advertising or additional services (like a faster connection). But, after thinking about it longer, I believe Google wants to provide free (monitored) access to the Internet in order to improve their PageRank system.
Page Rank Explained – http://www.google.com/technology/

“PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”
Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.”

Now, imagine if Google had access to millions of peoples Internet traffic and an ability to monitor every site everyone visits. This would allow them to determine which sites are truly popular, trends on when a site might be more popular (time focus like during an event), and what sites may naturally link to other sites (following a users surfing rather then a robot?s). Let?s use a BLOG as an example. If you had a link to a specific BLOG off of CNN.com, you may think that the BLOG is quite important (let?s assume it?s a non CNN property). However, if you can ?see? that 30% of visitors to CNN.com click through to this BLOG, you can likely assume it?s an important site and thus the PageRank should be high. Let?s take it a step further since you know everything that user is doing. On the one hand, if after those 30% of people click through to this BLOG, 99% of them are off it in less then a minute, then it?s probably not that good. Thus, you?d decrease the PageRank. But, if a large percentage of people that click through linger on that site for a significant amount of time (because they?re reading all of it and enjoying it), then you can really assume that this is a hot site and that you should increase it?s PageRank.
With this level of ?visibility? into the Internet and interests of all of us, Google?s search engine would provide even more relevant and popular results for your query.
By the way, SBC and Yahoo! Provide broadband together.

Municipal WiFi Should Not Be Allowed

Looks like muni wifi is getting serious. I don’t agree that a city should compete against the private sector with a service like this though. They don’t offer free electricity to the poor or heat or phone or any other utility. It will be interesting how it all plays out. Philly announced Earthlink as their provider. They were the first city with the idea (was stuck in court forever).
Let me expand on how I think cities offering WiFi is a.) a new paradigm for government and b.) bad for business.
a.) There are no other examples out there that I know of where a government entity is providing a utility service to people for free
– Television stations are private entities providing a service to customers. While this service is free (over air broadcast), it is paid for by advertisers. However, the government has no involvement or subsidization in this business venture.
– Since WiFi does not include “content” it acts more as a utility such as electricity, water, sewage, or phone service. None of which are provided free by municipalities.
– With respect to the telephone company, there again you have no competition from any municipalities. Now, this is an obvious monopoly within any given area and to counter that the FCC has required telephone companies to a.) provide plain old telephone service (POTS) to all rural areas at a reasonable price (federal law; costs of which are subsidized by urban areas), b.) rates have been regulated and monitored to not abuse this power. (In 1996 the FCC went further and forced all incumbent telephone providers to provide access to their switches/networks in order for competition to be created (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers or CLECs)). A somewhat similar paradigm to this offering would be SF asking Google to build a telephone network wired to every home and provide service for free.
– Telephone companies can leverage their channel more though as they can provide additional services over the same lines (e.g., broadband, TV (coming soon from SBC))
– Electricity companies are still trying to get the technology to provide broadband over their lines. Yet, it looks like broadband over electric lines is ready to go per a press release today
b.) Providing free broadband competes directly against telephone, cable, TV, satellite, cellular and electricity companies.
Telephone – I pay about $20 a month to SBC for my DSL. I would not if this service was launched.
Cable – many folks get broadband from their cable company. guessing they wouldn’t pay for it when this was launched (this eliminates revenue…jobs…)
TV – television stations are required to make the leap to digital broadcasting by the end of this year. the spectrum allocated for this and the technology would allow them to send data along with the video signals. new business models they haven’t quite dreamed up yet would be impacted
Satellite – also provides broadband access
Cellular – carriers world-wide have made significant investments in 3G networks (billions). they would likely never achieve a return with a free competitor as you wouldn’t need the cellular companies to provide this if it was free. not to mention, when it was available you’d get Skype and use it as a phone too, so now you’re not paying for your mobile phone or broadband (eliminates revenue…jobs…)
Electricity companies – well, they’re old. but if they ever really get into convergence (lot’s of wires that could do lot’s of things). they won’t be able to compete if there is already a free channel
Would I like to have free WiFi? Yes! But, I see way too many businesses that could be dramatically impacted by this paradigm change in our local governments, which I think would ultimately affect jobs, which will create even more people that can’t afford the digital world. But hey, I guess they’d still have WiFi!

Samsung SCH-i730

The race continues, but is still not won (nor may it ever be). The Treo 650 now has some additional competition. As I?ve been considering a new mobile phone (currently have the Treo 600), I haven?t crossed paths with anything that beats the Treo yet. But today, I ran across the Samsung SCH-i730 on Microsoft?s Windows Mobile site. I played with it a bit in the store and found the keyboard to be clumsy with the lip edge. Overall, I didn’t think it typed as well as the Treo or have has easy to operate menus.
My focus for now is getting a phone with over-the-air integration with Exchange Server so that I can easily check email and figure out what building my next meeting is in, without opening the laptop. I had looked at the upcoming Nokia 9300, which happened to be available to play with at a mall booth. However, while it?s web browser was beautiful with the wide view, it?s keyboard was a pain as the keys were designed to cover the full length of the phone when folded open, which made it difficult to quickly reach all with my thumbs. Additionally, it doesn?t look like it?s going to have ActiveSync (to Exchange) in the upcoming version, so it?s off my list.
Watching the consumer gadget masters such as Apple, Sony, Samsung, Palm, RIM, etc. try to come up with that perfect all in one, is exciting. Unfortunately, I still feel like we?re a few steps away. Yet, given this new offering from Samsung, we are getting closer. Apple, RIM, Palm look out! I think you?re going to be passed by soon with the new Windows Mobile and these latest devices from Samsung and Nokia. I just wish Apple, RIM and Palm would merge. Now, that would be a cool phone.
?The Samsung SCH-i730 manages a pretty impressive feat: It shrinks a Windows Mobile-based smart phone into a form factor that actually fits comfortably in your pants pocket and includes broadband wireless, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a built-in keyboard, and a speedy processor. Despite some irritating quirks in its wireless support, the Samsung i730 stays in the running for the “Treo killer” title.? ? CNET
Note: Edited since playing with the device in a store (opinion went down).

Just-in-Time Inventory Management

I think most good ideas are like cooking. Most of us want to be like Emeril, but few of us really have the knowledge to mix the right ingredients to make some new masterpiece. However, I think it?s easier in the business world. Take one cool technology, connect it to another and bam! you’ve got a new meal. So, a few nights ago I was laying down to go to bed and started thinking about Supply Chain Management and Just-in-Time inventory management. I have no idea why I started thinking about this as I?m not in either industry, but I know that since studying information systems in school I have always been impressed and annoyed by those companies that have what I want on the shelf when I want it. (I?m really tired of stores not stocking enough Mach3 razors) Yet it still amazes me that the connection to the consumer is not there. Now if you think about it, WalMart would really appreciate a phone call a few weeks prior to your shopping trip where you would let them know what you were going to shop for. Yet this doesn?t seem like a likely scenario. However, take those nasty little club cards from chains such as Safeway, add some fancy modeling and pattern identifying technology, and you?ve got the connection. Let?s take a specific product for example. Toothpaste is purchased by almost everyone and has a finite quantity that is most likely consumed in a linear fashion as you usually put the same amount of tooth paste on your brush each day. Take this average usage pattern and determine when that toothpaste is going to run out depending on the size of the container (you?ll know the size of the container purchased if you track it at the time of the sale). Now that you have this information, you can look at my individual buying habits. How often do I come back into a store, and which store, to buy toothpaste. Combine these two averages and you?ve got a pretty good bet as to when I?m going to need you to have my tooth paste stocked on your shelves. I imagine you could do this with most products from bread to toiletries. If you?re really on top of it, you?ll send me a coupon for the toothpaste just to make sure I come into your store.

Product Placement Will Pay for All Content to be Free

In a little under 10 years we went from accessing text through gopher to listening to music, watching the latest episode of survivor, IMing one friend, and talking to another across the world?all at the same time. And if I want to know how to make a cup of chai, I can access the recipe and directions a thousand times over within seconds. I remember when I could only access the Internet at my high school, which had a connection to the local university. Now, I can answer a question stumping everyone at a party through my mobile phone, which calls up google for me in seconds. So far I only pay around $20 for my home broadband access and $40 for my unlimited data plan on my mobile phone. Yet, I can access almost anything for free through those two pipes. The only subscription I have is to the Wall Street Journal, which I enjoy to read and they don?t supply for free. Advertising pays for a lot of this, but as most know, much of this is well?just used.
So, what will I have at my finger tips in the next 10 years? Between peer to peer file sharing technology improvements, lower cost bandwidth, ubiquitous wireless access, and a proliferation of devices that can access anything, I expect I should be able to do all of this, but faster, with higher quality and easier. I want to be able to listen to XM radio from my mobile phone, decide I want to keep the song for later that I?m listening to, pull up the nightly news (video) when I get home from work, have the WSJ read to me in the bathroom while I shower, and be able to see my friend across the world that I?m talking to on the phone while showing her the funny clip from a TV show I watched the night before. (long sentence used to dramatize how all of this will be accessible anytime, anywhere and all at once if desired) Oh, and I don?t expect to pay anymore. In fact, I expect that the cost will go down a bit. So, who?s going to pay for this? Well, I think it will be product companies. I don?t see anything that can be displayed on a screen costing money. I do however expect to be persuaded to drink more Diet Coke, buy new clothes more often and be enticed to run to the store to get the latest gadget, etc. However, in a time that will be over stimulated, I expect less advertising that?s in my face, but more subtle. For example, it may be that the can of soda in every video clip I watch happens to be Diet Coke, because Coca-Cola would know I like Diet Coke and they would pay to have it so that everything I watched would show only Diet Coke (of course, Pepsi may overbid them every once in a while as simple as Google AdWords and I may see a few Diet Pepsi cans occasionally). I happen to like PDA type phones more than the latest thin phone, so Warner Brothers may make it so that every movie/TV show I watch just happens to have the latest one laying around in a scene with a character that it knows I like (it would know I like the character as simple as Amazon knows I have taste for philosophy, business, and Harry Potter). This would then inspire me to likely get it after repeated visuals, and if I bought it immediately from watching, then the WB of course would get a larger commission. Product placement, I believe will pay for everything. Content will be free. Do I think there will be no advertisements? No, but I expect they will be more ?on demand? when I?m interested in something (for example SOBE may get their can in one day promoting their new energy drink. I may then be curious, touch it on my screen and be taken to an advertisement telling me what it is and why I should try it). Oh, and I?m a privacy nut, so I sure as hell hope that someone figures out how to let me give up some of this information without having it abused so that I can do all this for ?free.?

Brainstorming software

I wish I had more energy to chase building a company right now, but this just doesn?t quite interest me enough. Maybe later, I?ll build this, but for now I?m just going to share the thoughts. Imagine brainstorming with a large group of people, but you don?t have to listen to anyone talking, especially not the ones that overpower groups anyway. But, imagine you get a high amount of collaboration and ideas generating off of other ideas. What if it was just a piece of software? Now, imagine you have people logged in to a piece of software that doesn?t look much more complicated then a chat, but instead of streams of peoples conversations linearly floating up the screen with their name, it?s anonymous bubbles floating upwards like under the sea. As you see an idea, written inside one of these bubbles it makes you think of one, and you write it. This could go on for 15-20 minutes. Now, connect a reference database to it so that images started floating up replacing some of the words users are typing. You could add sounds as well, ultimately providing a visual experience of brainstorming. At the end, all the ideas are captured in a report and could even tell you who came up with each.

Google?s indexing the universe

While Google is happily indexing everything they can crawl to, I?m left wondering why all those brilliant mathematicians and marketers can?t come up with a better return then a laundry list of miscellaneous web sites that have words on them that match what I asked for. How many times do you scan, click, scroll, return, and repeat until you finally find what you?re looking for? It?s painful. Here?s a thought. Why not take all the intelligence gathered and change the paradigm. I noticed the other day that when I was playing around with the keywords associated with an AdWords campaign I had built, Google was able to recommend other keywords. It seems to me that based on my key words it knows something about them, which leaded me to wonder if it knows enough to categorize my results so that I can more easily find what I am looking for. Here?s a simple example. When I search for ?Montana fly fishing,? I am returned results for sites that provide informative information about fly fishing, places to fly fish, etc. Additionally, I?ll find sites for fly shops in different parts of the world. Another key category is fly fishing guides and outfitters. So, why can?t Google take all the results, categorize them as best as possible and then show me a relationship representation so that I could drill down only on those pertaining to fly fishing guides, which was what I may have been looking for in the first place.

System Execution

In today?s society, we are constantly surrounded and dependent on systems. Some work well and protect our lives and others well, let?s just say someone didn?t do enough testing. The one that gets me every week is the Seattle train system that moves me from the N gate back to baggage claim. After the train has taken off, it suddenly accelerates. The funny part is that this startles everyone, every time because the message, ?Please hold on? is delayed by about one second, just long enough to not warn you until it?s too late. It?s all about execution of a good system, not just the idea.

Random Comments

I have the Treo 600 from palmOne, which I happen to think is the best smart phone on the market today, but the Internet browsing experience is pathetic. The download speeds on the GSM network are so slow. Two things I think would improve this experience without having to improve the technology much. First, fix the cache so that it doesn?t feel like you?re downloading all over again when you go back into the page and second add a ?alt-tab? type of option that allows you to do other things while you wait for the web page to load.
Again as most of my life is bouncing here and there, yesterday I thought about how much of a pain it is for me to get music off/on my iPod. I am sure Steve is thinking of something along this line, but if I had WiFi built in I could access music on the fly from iTunes and/or my laptop on a wireless network. No wires? 🙂