Entrepreneurial Project Management

Guerrilla tips and tactics for getting things done

Archive for June, 2006

Francis Fukuyama and the US Political Scene

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

The Johns Hopkins Polical Scientist, Francis Fukuyama, has penned a couple of brilliant, controversial books (The End of History and the Last Man, Our Post-Human Future) which I found to be thought-provoking reads. Often he has been linked to the neoconservative movement, but in the NYTimes Magazine pieced (link below), he does a great job separating himself their mess and charts a course for the future that eschews war.

From Wikipedia:

In an essay in the New York Times Magazine in 2006 that was strongly critical of the invasion [5], he identified neoconservatism with Leninism. He wrote that the neoconservatives:

…believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

He also announced the end of the “neoconservative moment” and argued for the demilitarization of the war on terrorism:

“[W]ar” is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a “long, twilight struggle” whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world.

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Posted in off-topic, Society | Leave a Comment »

Microsoft Designs iPod Packaging

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

Hilarious, short video showing how MSFT would apply their design philosophy to the iPod (ironic note: the video was created within MSFT).

Posted in Innovation, Usability | Leave a Comment »

Understanding When Not to Invest

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

A great speech by Warren Buffet’s right hand man, addressing the question “How does one pick stocks?” for USC’s Biz School. I got this from the often cantankarous, semi-aristocratic Nicholas Carr, the pundit who penned “Does IT Matter?” His book argued that IT was becoming a commotidy and that businesses would be wise to treat as such (and focus on cost reduction rather than innovation). It made CIOs drop a load in their collective shorts.

From Carr:
But my favorite moment comes when Munger explains why investing in great new technology often leads to economic pain, if not ruin:

The great lesson in microeconomics is to discriminate between when technology is going to help you and when it’s going to kill you. And most people do not get this straight in their heads. But a fellow like Buffett does.

For example, when we were in the textile business, which is a terrible commodity business, we were making low-end textiles – which are a real commodity product. And one day, the people came to Warren and said, “They’ve invented a new loom that we think will do twice as much work as our old ones.”

And Warren said, “Gee, I hope this doesn’t work because if it does, I’m going to close the mill.” And he meant it.

What was he thinking? He was thinking, “It’s a lousy business. We’re earning substandard returns and keeping it open just to be nice to the elderly workers. But we’re not going to put huge amounts of new capital into a lousy business.”

And he knew that the huge productivity increases that would come from a better machine introduced into the production of a commodity product would all go to the benefit of the buyers of the textiles. Nothing was going to stick to our ribs as owners.

That’s such an obvious concept – that there are all kinds of wonderful new inventions that give you nothing as owners except the opportunity to spend a lot more money in a business that’s still going to be lousy. The money still won’t come to you. All of the advantages from great improvements are going to flow through to the customers.

Keep that in mind the next time your company’s considering a big investment in information technology. You know you’re going to pay the bill, but who’s going to end up reaping the rewards?

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Life Near Appalachia

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

Dueling Banjos

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Honesty in the Workplace

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

Why I got fired from Apple (via GMSV)

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A Tribute to GMSV

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

Each morning I spend a few minutes at Good Morning Silicon Valley. Johns Murrell and Paczkowski artfully review the news in high-tech with such wit that coffee often comes out of my nose. It takes great talent to come up with headlines such as “iPod inspected by #32 (please send amphetamines)” or “‘Course what we’d really like to do is “prioritize” some of these services right out of business …” or “Hello, You’ve reached Vonage Investor Relations: please leave a message (mailbox full)” but the latest one is truly a gem: “Gates, Buffett hail development of camel that fits through needle’s eye”.

Guys, this is great reporting and great fun. Thanks!

Posted in off-topic, Start-up | Leave a Comment »

What’s Your Secret Magic?

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

I’ve recently read a story to my kids from The Magic Treehouse series where Jack and Annie, brother and sister, find (what else?) a magic treehouse that transports them back in time so that they can save the day over and over again. In The Night of the Magician Jack and Annie meet up with four of the “new magicians” at the World’s Fair in Paris, 1889, at the top of the Eiffel Tower. The kids have to discover the “new magicians” secrets before an evil magician comes to steal away their knowledge. When Louis Pastuer, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Eiffel are asked “What is your secret magic?” they scratch their heads and respond.

Eiffel: My secret is that I have a taste for adventure and a love of work and responsibility.
Pastuer: Chance favors the prepared mind.
Bell: When one door closes, another opens.
Edison: Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

After each man gives their “secret” the others nod and clap in appreciation. I found myself resonating with each of these perspectives, perhaps especially Eiffel’s. I love challenging projects, love to learn, and have a passion to build things that matter.

As Joel Spolsky said, there are two things that matter most when evaluating a candidate: aptitude and passion. People with aptitude can learn new things and are immensly valuable in a host of situations. People with passion get things done.

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Skiing Beyond Safety’s Edge Once Too Often

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

A very human portrait by the NYT on Doug Coombs, steep-n-deep legend, and his recent tragic trip down the French Alps.

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An Open Letter to the Audible.com CEO

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

I sent this email a few weeks back and have not heard a reply. Perhaps it was too cheeky–this was after a very frustrating visit to the site. Let me know if you are an Audible subscriber with similar complaints.

Dear Mr Katz,

I have been an Audible customer for several years and frequently evangelize your services to friends and colleagues. Recently my “customer experience” has been going down the toilet, and I’m starting to loathe visits to your site. I write this email in the hope you will make the necessary changes before people like me defect in droves.

1. I can’t find what I want. Your (new) merchandising layout is awful. I don’t say this kind of thing lightly (I know how hard it is to strike a balance between marketing needs and clean design). I put up with your old layout (which was lacking but serviceable), but this newer version has these fatal flaws:

a. Home page real estate never has anything for me. Over 50% of the space is dedicated to huge spotlights (today Ricky Gervais and Dan Brown? No thanks. I read Mr Brown a while ago and Gervais may be interesting, but I’m a monthly subscriber and not interested in getting out my wallet). Key fact: I’m spending 2-3x as much time trying to locate a new book as before. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your average customer visit time has increased? Don’t take that as good news.

b. The left-hand categories are too numerous (humans can manage 5-8 well and maybe up to a dozen but you have over 30!) and, in my case, they are irrelevant. Do I want a bio or a biz book today? I don’t know. I want to listen to something good. My interests are eclectic (last month The Wisdom of Crowds but in January it was The Year of Magical Thinking). Why can’t you show me books that have high review scores from readers and critics?

c. Your “New Releases/Our Top Sellers/In the News” area is a nice idea poorly executed. You can’t read the titles of most of the books b/c of space (e.g. a featured product reads “What Price L”?), can’t see any blurb about the book without clicking through (take a look at Netflix for an elegant solution to this type of problem), and we only get <12 recs, many of which are really old.

d. The top categories “Best Sellers/Award Winners” are at times usable, but most of the inventory is old–is there a shortage of quality product on the market? The top “New Releases” category is also unhelpful–today a long list of $1 items from the Biography station. I am a monthly listener–I want to find another BOOK!

e. Who came up with the left hand navigation elements such as “I want to: feel like a kid again”? Maybe some focus group liked that approach, but I think it stinks. I want to find something good. So much of what is out in the market is rubbish, and I want you to help me avoid it.

2. Major usability issues. I get “This American Life” every month. Why not let me sign-up for an automatic renewal? Last monthy it took me ten minutes to find TAL and buy it. I wanted to upgrade a few months ago to get two periodicals per month, but your site wouldn’t let me upgrade my basic listener program until my year was over! I got a new computer and your DRM software said I had too many devices. On top of this, everything loads very slooooowly. All user actions require a page reload?!! Where is the AJAX? Is BroadVision the problem? If so, dump it now.

3. Summary: it feels like the VP of marketing runs the site. He’s always trying to sell me something and he’s doing a bad job. Mr Chairman, if I were you, I’d put an ombudsman in charge of the site, someone who is sympathetic to the customer’s needs. You are running a community (at least for monthly subscribers). It needs to feel like a comfortable, smart place that is solving my needs for intellectual content collection and delivery.

With all respect,

Posted in Anti-pattern, off-topic, Usability | 2 Comments »

Free Book (Sorry, for Startups Only)

Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006

Scott Berkun is offering copies of his book free to startups. There’s a lot to love about this book–great examples, insight on what goes wrong, and a real focus on the art rather than science of PM work. I read it last year and highly recommend it.

Posted in Program & Project Mgmt, Start-up | Leave a Comment »