News that makes you happy

Hoping KDR can go see Path101 at Cornell

I know I never got much out of the career fairs at Cornell, since I wasn't an engineer, a math major, or in the Ag school studying business management.  As a government major i was essentially expected to go to law school or bust. 

When I graduated in 2002, the job market sucked.  The class of 1999 had all gotten great jobs and I had salivated over the idea of that kind of opportunity only to see it dry up.  Looking for a job after graduation seemed to me like looking for ice in the Gobi Desert- tough.

I'm proud to say that a combination of connections helped me to find a great starting point, in just under a year after graduating.  I never would have found the job I got just by applying online.

Charlie O'Donnell, an energetic entrepreneur and Silicon Alley evangelist, hopes to  make it easier to find the right career, even if you were just a government major. 

Charlie will be at Cornell on Tuesday 2/19, so check out Path101, meet Charlie, and see if you can start your job search a little earlier than I did.

E-Paper! I've Been Waiting For This

Digital Media Wire reports:


"Cambridge, UK – UK-based Plastic Logic, announced that it has secured $100 million worth of venture capital, one of the largest deals in European venture capital history. The funding was co-led by Oak Investment Partners of Palo Alto, Calif., and Tudor Investment of Greenwich, Conn.

The company intends to use the funds to build a manufacturing facility as it shifts its business model away from a licensing strategy to manufacturing its own products. The company expects to begin manufacturing standalone flexible active-matrix display units that include connectivity hardware by 2009.

According to the release issued by the company, the products will enable the first “take anywhere, read anywhere” electronic reader products."

This product sounds like the future of newspapers to me.  People like the tangible nature of paper.  It is a really cool medium.  Add some advanced nav features and content that refreshes itself and I think we have a winner.  Hopefully they can get the price right so it's not a $300 mistake if you lose it.  And hopefully, it also won't be plagued by content partnership problems. 1994?

So I keep seeing all the hype over the iTv, the new device from Apple which will be for broadband video and connect to the TV.  Expectations include a robust download driven broadcast platform and DVR-like features.  I hope no one is quoting me for what the mac rumor mill is saying.

If true, or close to true, it will only be 14 or so years after the ill-fated MacTV- which was basically a Performa colored black and with a CATV in card.  You could only watch TV or use the mac, not both at the same time, and it had still but not video capture.   Remember those cartridge-loading CD-ROM drives?  My dad got one for my grandparents, and I think they were happy with it, sort of until everyone realized it was just an underpowered marketing mistake.

I think Apple is in a much better position to execute on a TV-related venture at this point, but I guess you never know.

Cable Backs EBay TV-Auction System

Interesting story reported by Advertising Age- eBay's auction platform for TV time.  Reminds me of Amazon's "Amazon Web Services."  Imagine you've invested $$$$ in making the best darned consumer application, with scalable server modules and it just kicks ass.  You trained lot sof smart people and got lots of innnovation on hard problems- now what? 

It's like FedEx or UPS doing supply chain management consulting.  When I hear about stuff like this, it actually makes me smile- imagine comapnies adding real value!

Fedex Monster Vanquished

Someone finally called me and made all my dreams come true...well, my FedEx dreams, anyhow.  I learned a  tremendous amount about customer relationship management.  My office may not do $100k of business a year with FedEx, but I expect a certain level of service from a global corporation.  It is a bit disgraceful that I spent so long on the phone.

Escalation is a key concept in most kinds of customer service.  A pyramid of people reach out to the customer, and try to solve the problem.  Effectively passing the customer from one level to another keeps costs down.  Some searching for such a pyramid approach on Google leads me to believe that most of the innovation around this idea is in IT services. 

A lot of the guidelines for IT organizations (from corporate internal tech support to Oracle's customer support process) focus on delivering a promised level of service to  the customer, and also on guaging ther severity of the problem the customer faces.  Other call center and general CRM approaches seek to apply the most resources to the customers with the highest lifetime value- and making data about the customer's contacts witht he firm available to representatives in multiple areas.

But where was I fitting in to FedEx's list?  The Gestalt hypothesis suggests that if they had reached out to me more, i might have been satisfied even if they had been unable to solve the problem.   My expereicne was that this only went so far.  At a certain point, after several CSRs called to try to "fix" the problem, or left an idiotic message with an invitation to wade through 85 layers of other robots with southern drawls (no offense, actually they are all nioce people, but even the Second Death Star had plumbing contractors ) by calling 

I'm still thhinkoing about this and when I find the right way to capture how FedEx should be operating, I'll post it for sure.

On Personal Relationships

The woman who owns the laundromat where I drop off my laundry just called.  She found my college ring in the laundry I just dropped off.  Thank you, M.

M seems to be the only one of the 4 or so employees of the laundromat who remembers my name or phone number-I should mention  that one laundry I used on the east side stopped asking me for my name or phone number on drop-off after about 3 weeks.  Of course I kept coming back to that laundromat- that is just good customer service.

I pride myself in establishing the kind of relationships in my personal and professional life which are 1) usually enjoyable in and of themselves and 2) very likely to help things get done better.  From the staff here at the Business School to the laundromat, I think it's clear this pays off, a lot.  I think about an office issue recently  which pitted my "inside contact" information against asking a favor of another department in the University, and I still think my solution was the better one.

The Oracle of Omaha

So by now everyone has heard that Warren Buffet is giving 31 gigabucks, or thereabouts, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  That's a lot of money.  So, what if he hqad decided instead to give free wifi to everyone.  Would $31.5 billion / 6 billion people = $5/person be enough?

How does one choose a charity for that size of a gift?  This decision is not “guns or butter” but “the information superhighway or malaria pills”…I think it is fine to choose the world emissary to malaria…(the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation).

But actually the problem is harder.  How do you get rid of half a million shares of a stock that never splits and trades about 1,000 shares per day at $3k per share?  This has the potential to really muck up the market- so what is a foundation to do?  Probably, they will arrange, in advance, to sell the newly acquired shares to some institutional investor.  I bet they already figured that out. 

They'll have to execute the trades at the market rate, or risk both parties having to pay taxes on a sweetheart deal.

If you assume that the value of the stock goes up by say, 3% (I can;t live with modeling it as 6% growth (more or less historiecally maitained)  because I think this whole business will curtail the growth of the stock with some really weird jolts every year for -by my calculations- 34 YEARS).  Every year, the stock price goes up, the shares change hands, and Bill and Melinda have between $1.8bn and $475m.  Not bad.


This is the inaugural post.  In order to withstand the heavy Slashdotting I am sure this blog will receive, I have committed to posting only my original thoughts, and some links to what inspires them.  If you want to check out where I work (currently), hit up The Columbia Institute for Tele-Information. 

But if you just want a good laugh, make sure you check out the story about two Florida lawyers who were ordered to reslove a dispute and forced by a judge to resolve it using "one (1) game of rock, paper, scissors."  The funny thing about this, well ok, one of the many funny things about this, is that a resaercher at CITI told me that "rock, paper, scissors is a very efficient dispute resolution technique, because it produces a winner and a loser." A lawyer friend also remarked, "that decision is not reviewable." 

Yes, my blog is named after a Led Zeppelin song: I may not come from the Ice and Snow (actually, it is technically more correct that I come from the 'Western shore') but on I sweep, with thrashing oars, to go somewhere fun, exciting, and challenging.