Keeping Sane in the Membrane

So this week has been a little hectic, had a lot of late nites with working on projects and calls with foreign lands, but I also have been trying to do some things to keep me relatively sane as well.

One thing is watching an episode of a tv show every nite, whether DVD or DVR. Only 20 minutes or so but gives me just a little slice of normalcy. Lately the show of choice has been Arrested Development, which is just plain ridiculous. Phenom show. Terrible ratings and only made it thru 2 1/2 seasons before getting the axe by FOX. The funny thing about the show though, is that while it got wretched Nielson ratings it was always in the top 5 shows downloaded off bit torrent. So what does that tell you??

1) Determining audience size by doing surveys and tv boxes is way outdated

2) FOX didn’t know what they had with Arrested Development. They should have been trying to do more interactive stuff on the web, which is where their audience was hiding. Much like the Office does with the way they market themselves, thru the bits on their site and selling it via iTunes.

3) If everyone was going to grab it off of the Internet for free, via bit torrent, they should have figured out a way to measure it and use the data to sell product placements

But nope…it got canned, and now only lives on in my DVD collection.

The other thing I have been doing is playing about 20 or 30 minutes of piano a day, usually late at nite after class as a way to zone out for a while. Been learning how to play “Like a Rolling Stone” the last 2 days. Really interesting to learn it as I’ve had the keyboard forever, but never really played it much as I tend to only play guitar. But the other day it was staring at me, and I decided to give it a 2nd chance. Sometimes its more fun to do things you are not good at than to do things you know you can already do.


Getting schooled…so far

A lot of folks ask me how school is going…so thought I’d relay some of my experiences from time to time.

I am starting to the get the hang of going back to school, at least I think so (we’ll see next week after my Econ exam). So far, I can say it is much different than the first go around 12 years ago at App St (shizzam 12 years ago!!). No more partying every nite and eating toast for 3 meals a day. Nope, the booze and abject poverty are replaced by working a job 55 hours a week at all times of the day, then going to class and group meetings at nite, then reading 150 pages on the weekend and doing research, oh and having family responsibilities on top of it. Much, much, different. I still haven’t quite got all my time management skills down pat yet. And I am still waiting to be invited to the first keg party of the semester.

Last week, our MicroEcon class attempted a virtual class thru a 3rd party application called Eluminate (i keep wanting to call it ‘Elimidate’). I actually thought it went ok, not quite like being in class but decent enough. A lot of folks complained about the audio quality etc, but to be me it was definitely worth it to sit in my home office without a shirt on and take the class (just kidding about the shirt). I would have preferred the virtual class be done via a webcam as I think that would have made it smoother, and the whiteboard could have been better, but you can definitely envision the possibilities.

In the not so distant future, I can see people taking classes at MIT or Harvard while sitting at home in Raleigh. Well, not me per se, as there is no way in hell either institution accepts me. But it opens the doors for the amount of students that could potentially take a course. Physical limitations could be thrown out the door completely. The ability for foreign students to take classes from their native countries becomes entirely possible. And this doesn’t have to be limited to universities. why not have some high school classes like that? Or complete virtual high schools that are outside of the ineffective government prison/schools that we are running today? Like i said, lots of possibilities.

One hilarious note from the virtual class…there was a chat function that we could use to ask questions to the professor as well as send notes to other students. Only problem was that people thought the messages to other students were set up to be private. And one guy wrote something like, “Man, this really sucks’ (paraphrasing) thinking it was private to another student. Little did he know that the professor could read everything that was being typed, regardless of who it was going to. Oops. After we all had a good laugh after the professor read aloud the message, a few folks immediately started writing notes like “This virtual class rocks!” and “The professor is awesome!” High Comedy….see this is why i like virtual class.

Long tail Rambles – part 1

So as I mentioned in an earlier post, I picked up the “Long Tail” as part of our assigned group project this semester. The basic premise of the project is to determine what is the evidence? What are the contributing factors? What are some good practices you can find?
What are the implications of your findings from researching this topic? What should you keep in mind as a manager?

We are actually being graded not so much on whether we think the Long Tail is a good strategy or not, but based on our research abilities and presentation to go over our findings. Essentially, we are acting as research consultants.

Just so you are up to speed, the Long Tail is the idea that the cummulative effect of selling to niches can actually be as valuable as the effect of selling the ‘hit’ products. In retail, stores are constantly trying to make sure that things on their shelves are selling. If they aren’t part of the top tier of revenue, than they take them off the shelf and fill it with something they think will sell better. It is the old 80/20 rule adage, in which 80% of your revenue is coming from 20% of your products or customers.

One of the effects of limited shelf space and limited geographic audience is that retailers tend to limit choices available to customers and cater to the lowest common denominator. But there is still demand for some of these ‘non-hit’ products, just not that in the immediate area. People have a lot of different tastes, but how do you sell to them?

That is in theory where a long-tail concept comes into play. By offering more choices and a way to filter those choices you have a way to tap into those niches that aren’t being met by the 80/20 rules employed at your local retailer. Companies like Amazon, Apple’s iTunes, and Google are all examples of this, where they can offer tons more products whether its books, music, or advertising than previously possible because they have virtually unlimited shelf space and no geographic restrictions.

So this sounds like the greatest thing ever right? Offer unlimited choice, and bingo…instant millions of dollars, right? Well, not so fast. In some of our preliminary research, we’ve found tons of criticism on this business model and on Chris Anderson’s data used in the book. We are going about the research in a neutral fashion to look at both sides of the argument and looking at the economic & social factors of Long Tail. I am tasked with the Social aspects. This basically means I am going to be reading a lot of psychology and consumer behavior journals for the next few weeks.

One of the key things I am looking for is the part about choice. As I’ve mentioned before, I am also in the midst of reading Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less”. Schwartz argues with more choice, you get more confusion, frustration, and even depression with the decision making process, because you get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of choice. This view is sort of in opposition of the Long Tail view, which of course is arguing the customers want more choices. Filters are going to be the key aspect of having success with Long Tail. If you have a website or store without a way to filter the choices, you are going to frustrated or depressed. But part of my research will be, “do we really want more choice?” and look for evidence.

The other interesting social aspect of Long Tail I plan on looking at is around the peer recommendations and community effects of helping drive people into niches. This obiviously gets into the blogistan, forums, myspace, facebook, etc. Could be fun stuff to look at. I wish I had a lot more time to do this, instead of 5 weeks.

So I only gave you the tip of the iceberg, but many folks have been asking me what I am up to…and this is a big part of it. more to come…

Apple’s Announcements

I wonder how you get to have enough stret cred to hold an exclusive unveiling of your new product lines. It has always seemed odd to me how Apple can do that. Its like free marketing from hell. I was watching CNBC at the time of the launch, and it was the main topic of the day, that and the weird HP spy case (bizzare stuff). I mean does General Mills have a monster press event when they release a new Capt’n Crunch variety? How do you get a company to that level to get away with that? It was everywhere. Is it based on the strength of the lunatic fanboy culture they’ve cultivated through online communities or is it something different that other companies can take note of and mimic?

Anywho, so they release some new pods, and some new TV device comes out soon, and you can buy movies. Nothing earthshattering, though maybe the TV device latches on. The only prob with that one is that cable companies have video on demand and all that stuff and with better quality. Only thing this little device gets you is the ability to play all the crazy stuff you’ve downloaded on your Mac or PC and then you can play it on your tv. Kinda cool, but we’ll see. If its cheap enough, might work.

Also, they released iTunes 7, which looks really cool. I like the visualization with album covers etc, and takes the form of a jukebox of sorts. Here is a snapshot from my iMac.


Bigger image at: 

School + Work = Exile of a Madman

Actually its not that bad, its just getting adjusted properly. Time Management will become a key.
So..what’s new? In no particular order here is what is going on (or at least what I can think of at 9:30 pm):
1) I plan on writing a bit in the next day or so on Anderson’s “The Long Tail”, real interesting read. Now working with my team to figure out the management implications of implementing this kind of business strategy. Should be fun.

2) Went to the NCSU vs App State football 2 weekends ago. You’d think since I am now at NCSU I’d be rooting for the Pack. You’d be dead wrong. Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer. The real bad part about that game, is that we had our shot. We could have won the game, but blew it on a pivotal fumble play to take the lead. The fallout of an App St. win for the Packackers would have been priceless. Especially considering the Akron experience the next week. Side note – heading up to Boone in a few weeks, totally psyched.
3) Sold my old acoustic guitar, the Takamine, on Craigs List, and then went to Harry’s Guitar Shop down the street (great place by the way) and picked up a new Martin acoustic. I’ve always wanted one, so went gusto. Phenomenal guitar, it actually makes me sound somewhat competent, which is an illusion. I can only imagine how jealous Bobby is. This will be the guitar I use when I get off my ass to record “Legend of the Neuse”. I have song fragments and scribbled lyrics (on the ThinkPad tablet of course). Now just need to carve out a few days of concentration.

4) Listening to tons and tons of music, and reading tons and tons of pages of stuff for class. Stuff I am listening to that I got recently (for once not on random on the pod):

Bob Dylan – Modern Times

Comets On Fire – Avatar

TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain

Beirut – Gulag Orkestar

The Drams – Jubilee Dive

5) The Atlanta Braves are dead in the wild card. The reign of terror in the NL East is over. If they had Wickman the whole year, and Chipper didn’t fall apart a million times, it would have been a different story. Oh, and if the Mets didn’t acquire 7 All-Stars. Bizzare year though. Adam LaRoche decided to turn into friggin Ryan Howard all of a sudden. Going to be some interesting decisions in the offseason with Smoltz and Hudson as free agents. I am still scratching my head of the deal that sent Betemit to LA. They could really use him now with Chipper out. Oh well, it was a good run.

6) With school, trying to get myself acclimated with working in a team setting. I am so used to working by myself that its made me used to just trying to do everything without having to rely on others or try to coordinate things. I normally relish having to be solely repsonsible for things, as I like to control my own destiny. Having to rely on others to get things done is a very scary proposition for me. One of the reasons I wanted to pursue my MBA is to develop those kinds of skills, as I could see the absence of those skills limiting my effectiveness down the road and in turn burning me out pretty rapidly. So its sort of a struggle for me now, but I know it will pay dividends. This is one of the many reasons I am doing this. And because I like to punish myself.

I’ll try to have some serious posts in the next week on Analytics and Long Tail, so I can get back into the blog groove. Cuz my traffic is suffering, as is my brand awareness.