Blog posts tagged "business"

Business Transcendental

September 13th, 2012

Ads are an ugly business. You barter away functionality, aesthetics, privacy, and performance for a marginal money maker predicated on using manipulation to get people to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t want. If you’ve ever experienced an old favorite website slowly descending into monetization (my canonical example is Alta Vista), you’ve experienced this viscerally, an old favorite slow selling off bits of itself for a few more hits of cash.

Then Google came along, and they went deep, they created a narrative of transcendental advertising. Advertising so good you wanted to see it. Advertising that was net positive. Advertising that would cause you turn off your ad blocker. And if you’re in an advertising supported business you probably even believe the narrative at some level. Ignore the data about who clicks on ads and why, or the insane degradation of most revolutionary communication medium since the printed word into SEO/SEM spam farms. Transcendental advertising, advertising as liberator, advertising for advertising’s sake, advertising as a higher calling. This is what I call “business transcendental”. A philosophy that is tied to your paycheck.

Watching folks responses to the iPhone 5 “Lightning” connector got me thinking about this. Apple has beautiful, breath taking reasons for launching a new connector. It’s innovative, it opens up previously unexplored options that most of us can’t even imagine yet. It’s the product of R&D by some of the best and brightest in the business, like the touch sensing pixel screen or the new thinking aluminum case. But it’s also planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is an ugly business. Uglier then advertising. I think, unlike advertising, most of us still recoil in disgust at gratuitous examples of planned obsolescence. Which is why transcendental planned obsolescence is so gut wrenching. Planned obsolescence as innovation, planned obsolescence as the pursuit of perfection, planned obsolescence as identity politics. Google is in the business of biz-transcendental advertising, Apple is in the business of biz-transcendental planned obsolescence. But the underlying business is as optional, and ugly as it ever was, and the transcendence is an illusion.

Blueprint for a New York Coffee Boutique

January 17th, 2006

Tony has a bit from this morning’s Brazilian auction

When the digital smoke cleared, the last bidder standing was the coalition of Australia’s Instaurator and Vince Piccolo of Vancouver’s Caffe Artigiano paying a record-demolishing $49.75 a pound (about $79,000 for the 12 bags).

A bold move that will have some scratching their heads, but Vince and his crew plan on selling the coffee exclusively via their recently obtained Clover at $5 a cup.

I’ve been pondering that a kiosk specializing in exactly this kind of thing, would probably be smash hit in Manhattan.

Specialized, small space requirements, appeal to the city’s snobbery. Hook it up to a decent online engagement strategy, communicating and blogging around daily specials, cuppings, and general coffee education. I think it would be a hit. And avoid most of the pitfalls associated with starting a coffee shop (especially in a high rent city) In fact, I even fantasized about starting it, until I thought hard about the initial outlay. And it dovetails nicely with my not so secret desire to see the quality of NYC coffee rise if I’m going to be living there.

“It might seem crazy that we were prepared to pay that price,” said Mr. Piccolo, a 40-year-old former fine-dining restaurant owner. “But when you break it down by the cup, it is about the same price that people would pay for a mediocre glass of wine.”

Actually it’s still considerably less then you’ll pay most places in New York for a mediocre glass.

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Odio.us

August 29th, 2005

I just MLP’ed Gnat’s new Odio.us, a custom Web 2.0 Business Plan service, with the commentary,

I’m looking for engineers to work on my AJAX multi-device emergent social network web-app that leverages developing nations.”

But then I hit reload, he suggested I get into

monetized Web 2.0 aggregated calendaring web-app that leverages the acquisition fever of Google and Yahoo!.

Um, that’s actually a really good idea, so much so that I can think of a half a dozen people already working on it. Don’t let Gnat fool you, it just seems random.

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Business Plan for an Online Calendar

August 20th, 2002

The title is something of a joke. When I sent out this email last November, as it was becoming clear that Anyday was going to be shut down, it was to friends all of whom were working in companies that had a business plan for online calendaring. The idea was a simple one, (and very un-dotcom) make an online calendar/pim service that provided quality for money, using a simple, and viable mini-payments (like mirco-payments, but bigger).

I was reminded of it recently when researching fastmail.fm, whom I think has done a great job implementing this exact same business plan, but for email. Keep prices low, allow people to upgrade for a small, and well disclosed fee, grow slowly and stably on the back of income so you’re around for the long haul, and provide what people are asking for. I was also reminded of it by my partner just recently started working as an office manager at a university and said, “I finally understand why Anyday was cool.” 7 months after Palm shut it down unfortunately.

Anyday was a web-based PIM, inspired by the Palm pilot, and built largely by ex-Lotus people (and a few of us with different calendar backgrounds). The primary goal was to get a functional online PIM that could sync with your desktop PIM, and Palm pilot, for the purposes of remote access, backup, or act simply as a stand alone product. Once people were online, there was the opportunity to use that connectivity to do things impossible with the traditional applications, scheduling, free/busy lookup, delegation, etc.

A while back I noticed that the Horde had almost all the components neccessary to satisfy that primary goal. And I was tempted to see if it could be used to build an Anyday clone, just to see how fast it could be done, and how irrelevant all of us overpaid Java programmers were. Once Anyday was gone the idea evolved.

Horde provides: an addressbook with an LDAP backend, webmail with an IMAP backend, a web calendar, and hooks for integrating them. So it would be real simple to throw up something like Anyday, minus groups, scheduling, and sync.

Sync

Sync was always the coolest idea, and the hardest, most expensive problem at Anyday. Funny thing is it doesn’t seem like it should need to be that hard. I think part of the problem was in the conception.

They(we) bought into a solution (Extended Connect), that said “All things must go through me.” Obviously Extended liked this because it made then more valuable.

But Sync’ing with the Palm could be really simple. I think a little desktop client, that can talk XML-RPC to the server, used pilot-link to the Palm, and parsed SyncML, would do the trick nicely. And if it was properly open and interesting, would take off as its own open source project.

(update: not sure now iSync, and OS X fit on the landscape since this was written, might function as an open source alternative to iSync)

Self-Sustaining

Here is where I think the most intersting parts come in. I’m inspired by Yahoo’s “sort-of-mirco-payments” at mail.yahoo.com, where you get 6M free, and then you get another chunk for $2/month

The basic service would be free. And then you pay for extras.

Extras would include

  • Direct access to the LDAP server behind the addressbook for sync’ing to Outlook, Evolution and such.
  • Direct access to the IMAP server again for access from Outlook, Evolution and kin.
  • More disk space, not sure if this is just for email, or total. (update: I notice that diskspace isn’t fastmail.fm’s primary concern, but bandwidth, that makes sense, the collorary to the trusim “storage is cheap” is “bandwidth isn’t”)
  • CAP access when CAP becomes more exciting. Reefknot is almost ready! (update: Well Reefknot seems to have slowed down, but iCal.app, Entourage, Evolution, and Outlook are all becoming serious iCalendar players)

You would want an account page, that summarizes all expenses, and makes people feel very aware of how much they are spending. I think part of what scares people about mirco-payents is feeling out of control.

Another trick would be to only bill when the amount owed gets large enough to make it worth it. And to be clear about this. (sort of the reverse of what Amazon does for affiliate accounts) (update: And to send a nice email about it the way Safari does)

I think the billing system would be the most complicated piece of development. Probably 2 weeks work. (+2-3 weeks to debug :) (update: I’ve sinced learn I badly underestimate the time things take these days)

Further Development

I think Groups is an important concept to really make a service like this useful. Both formal groups, and ad-hoc ones. And of course I would like to expand the ideas of group scheduling that I was playing with before But I don’t think they’re critical for initial acceptance.

update: Since I originally came up with this idea, iCal has been annouced which makes some noise about the potentials for sharing calendar information, and syncing. It will be interesting to see (in a couple of weeks now) what they’ve come up with.

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