Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Consulting & advisory, research notes, in the press, about bubblegen,
next wednesdays.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Nokia creates a $100 million venture fund to support late stage (revenue generating) wireless startups.

I think these focused venture capital funds are actually a better play than their 'mishmash cover everything that might be hot' type bigger brothers. The people working here know their industries, know what's needed, and I would hazard a guess that a higher percentage of companies started by focused VCs like this actually successful. Just a guess though.

-- dhd // 7:06 PM //


Politics of the Day - Reversing the Enlightenment

I know, I know, I said no more politics. But:

"...Students at one of the area's largest Christian schools are reading a controversial booklet that critics say whitewashes Southern slavery with its view that slaves lived "a life of plenty, of simple pleasures."
Leaders at Cary Christian School say they are not condoning slavery by using "Southern Slavery, As It Was," a booklet that attempts to provide a biblical justification for slavery and asserts that slaves weren't treated as badly as people think.

Principal Larry Stephenson said the school is only exposing students to different ideas, such as how the South justified slavery. He said the booklet is used because it is hard to find writings that are both sympathetic to the South and explore what the Bible says about slavery."

To reiterate an old theme: this is how we become them. One of the things my third world background taught me is that you can justify anything in God's name - in the subcontinent, throwing acid in the face of an 'unfaithful' woman is an act of 'faith'. For others, it's blowing up buses full of innocent people. Apparently, in parts of our country, it's slavery. How abhorrent and what a betrayal of the very idea of America.


-- umair // 6:00 PM //


Google Suggest Beta

A future textbook example of leveraging network externalities - Google captures the information value in related search terms by creating something close to new: a search platform for network externalities - massive value gets created for users as search costs drop. Switching costs go up, Google locks you in, voila. Brilliant move - truly impressive both technologically and strategically.

-- umair // 5:48 PM //


Cool Christmas present. Link

-- kh // 5:01 PM //


Netflix Vs the World

Amazon introduces DVD mail rentals in the UK - credible threats created a competition hole, and now Amazon can secure a nice FMA in this market.

"...Netflix shelved plans to enter the U.K. market and reduced the price on its most-popular unlimited rental plan in the U.S. to $17.99 from $21.99 after learning of Amazon's coming service. Netflix expects to have about 2.5 million subscribers by the end of the year."

-- umair // 1:22 PM //


Google Vs Evil

Goog to test animated gifs for AdSense:

"...The Mountain View, Calif., Internet-search giant published a note on its site telling AdSense customers -- the Web-site partners that display Google's keyword-driven ads -- that it plans to accept animated ads in the GIF format from a small group of test advertisers. The test is part of an effort to expand its image ad program, which has been in beta testing since May, to include more formats."

Here's the relevant Google page. Needless to say, I think this is a really bad idea - yes, it will generate massive revenue in the short-term, but it exposes them to disruption from innovators focused on new forms of advertising. Of course, Google's public now, so priorities have changed...

-- umair // 1:21 PM //


Bubble of the Day

The comic bubble of the 90s, as told by a comic dealer - illustrates some classic bubble dynamics:

"...Valiant books were just insane. Being a brand new comic universe, new characters were introduced every issue. New comics soon doubled in price just because it had the first appearance of a minor character. Even old issues of Magnus Robot Fighter, previously ignored and looked down upon, were flying off shelves. Image comics were popular just because they were Image comics. Early image was staffed by folks who knew how to draw, but not how to run a business. Early issues were often ridiculously late and even more poorly drawn then usual. But people still bought them. I didn't understand it, I just sold them.

I very clearly remember the beginning of the end. It was at a comic show in Portland, hosted by Dark Horse Comics. For months, collectors were trying to find a copy of Magnus Robot Fighter #12, the first appearance of Turok. The reason being, Valiant was about to launch Turok's own comic book, and investors and speculators were looking for copies before it came out. What they didn't know is that most dealers HAD multiple copies of it, but were hording their copies until Turok #1 came out so they could sell it for big bucks. Not me, though - it just didn't feel like a good bet.

So anyway, this show happened to come out right after Turok #1 was released, and the joint was practically littered with copies of Magnus #12, all having magically materialized from various inventories. One dealer had rented a table just so he could sell his two long boxes full of Magnus #12. Turok was all over the damn place. And not a single dealer sold a single copy. The investors had totally vanished from the scene. The worm had turned, and comics fans were pissed off.

...Magic cards were THE perfect opportunity for their pump and dump schemes.

Here's how it works. Say a new card series comes out with a wholesale cost of $30 per box for a case of 10 boxes. That's $300. On day one, sports cards dealers would jack the price up to $75, well over the comfortable margin of $20-$30 per box. If they sell 4 boxes at $75, that nets them $300 right away. They've broken even. They can now drastically cut the price as low as they want and still make a profit on the case. By the second week, the price would drop from $75 to $35. Two weeks later, it would reach $20 or less. To ensure their profit margins, at least in my area, dealers would form their own little cartel and all agree to fix prices at the higher level. Smaller dealers, many of whom purchased their inventory from the larger dealers, tried to sell their boxes at a normal retail price and could not compete. They were gutting their own hobby.

Enter Magic cards. In an attempt to prolong demand and collectibility, Wizards of the Coast rationed all orders for Magic cards they received. So if a dealer ordered 100 boxes, WHAM, their order would be cut to 50 boxes. Dealers would receive maybe 10% of their order on launch date, receive their next 30% a month or so later, and so on. Needless to say, this tactic combined with sports card dealer greed and collector insanity did not result in a stable collecting environment. "

Highly recommended (via MeFi).

-- umair // 11:01 AM //

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Om on the death - aka, relative invisibility to pro bloggers - of individual bloggers.

Here's the problem - people assume there are no switching costs in the blogosphere (ie info is cheap, there are many similar blogs, all that jazz). This is not the case at all - the truth is switching costs are high in the blogosphere. There's evidence for this: blogrolls tend to stay locked in. Once they're made, they're rarely (if ever) updated or switched.

Here's why: while reading any old blog is costless, searching for new blogs that are worth reading regularly is costly. We can call this search cost the price of a blog (there's more to the price of blog than this, but it'll do for now).

Now, once you do find a blog that meets your preferences, you tend to lock in, until (presumably) you've at least recouped the fixed investment of searching for the blog. Or, you lock in until a new blog offers you enough value to switch, which is the value of the first blog, plus any fixed cost left.

The point is that you lock in because the opportunity cost of reading the blogs you've already found is very low - the expected value of reading new blogs is simply not that high (ie, the probability that you'll find a new one as good as the one you're already reading is low, because search costs are high). So the second case - where you switch - is pretty rare.

Now, we can complicate this model with regret effects - the mental costs of dissonance, or processing new information that disagrees with information you already believe - which raises switching costs even further. But there's no need to do so at this point - this model already explains the incredibly lengthy time decay of the average blogroll.

What this means is that reputation effects are a key market structure of the blogosphere - because they slash search costs. You might not read bubblegen if only Om mentions it - but if Om, Battelle, Wired, and BoingBoing mention it, you'll probably give it a chance. The probability of this being a good blog (and thus expected value) jumps discontinuously - not linearly - with each repuational signal the market sends you.

But the odds of this happening are pretty low - even if your blog is great, sending this many signals is combinatorially complex. It doesn't (and won't) happen often. What all this really means is that the blogosphere will ossify - it will get and stay locked into winner-take-all dynamics. Especially as the number of bloggers increases massively more than the number of readers.

So what we really need, I've thought for a long time, are new mechanisms to create churn in the blogosphere - not simply positive feedback ones like Blogdex and Technorati (and traditional media, blog awards, advertising, etc), but things like reverse syndication - and newer ones we haven't thought of yet. These are search cost slashers - or expected value multipliers, if you like. It's an absolutely huge gap in the blogosphere just waiting to be plugged.

If these mechanisms aren't created, blogonomics dictates that pro bloggers will be read more than personal bloggers - because they're more likely to generate reputation effects, and take advantage of positive feedback mechs. Believe it or not, this was part of the motivation for Blogversations.

-- umair // 1:08 PM //


Art of the Day

It's Moroder Week at the excellent MusicThing.

-- umair // 11:28 AM //


Marketing 2.0/Sell-Side Ads

Fan creates iPod Mini ad. Massively distributed economies will disintegrate industries; they're the future of media - here's an Independent article on Podcasting - another example of tectonic shifts to come.

-- umair // 10:59 AM //

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Artifical octopus-like eye created. (Via Linkfilter).

-- umair // 1:56 PM //


Blogging 2.0

I highly recommend you check out Relevanta - it's almost revolutionary. It's completely chaotic at the moment, but the potential is immense. Killer stuff.

-- umair // 1:51 PM //


Object Fetish

Next-gen console (PS3/Xbox2) screenshots.

-- umair // 1:47 PM //


Perkins to launch a mag about blogging.

-- umair // 1:35 PM //


Geographic Expansion

Blogfa is a Persian blogging service. Accelerated past the chasm indeed.

-- umair // 1:30 PM //


Anomic Society

Wired wants us to measure Gross National Happiness instead of GDP.

-- umair // 1:22 PM //


Blackbelt Jones on the new muzak. Interesting.

-- umair // 1:18 PM //


Simulation Economy

The In-game Economics of Ultima Online.

-- umair // 1:05 PM //


Coordination Machines - Dark Side

The Net decreases transaction costs to finding suicide partners in Japan.

-- umair // 1:04 PM //


New Market Spaces - Anomic Society

This letter to the NYT helps us understand the dynamics of the anomic market space:

"...You write of depressed and suicidal college students as if their problems were purely psychological. What if the problem lies in the social organization of universities rather than in the psyches of students?

What if first-year students come to college and can't find meaningful communities?

What if the culture of alcoholism, the impersonal lecture halls and the anonymous cafeterias make students unhappy?

What if students develop psychological problems because, in our society, jobs are scarce, personal relationships are frequently tenuous, and the future is often frightening?

As a recent college graduate, I can attest that some students do need psychiatric help. But university administrators, as well as journalists, would be well advised to ask whether student depression is a symptom of much larger problems."

This is related to what KH calls money culture - in both cases, the driver is anomie. Anomie is also driving a resurgence of religious fundamentalism across the globe.

Why is it so powerful? As the great sociologists pointed out, technological change accelerates exponentially, while our ability to socialize it (ie, the rate at which social structures can adapt) increases generally linearly. I would add a jump term to this model - we can socialize the effect of new machines only discontinuously. When we can't socialize the shockwaves technology sends through our culture, we turn elsewhere for guidance - religion, self-help books, cults, etc. All of these products being sold on the anomic market.

Now, we can skip a full blown discussion of the economics of the market, though it might be quite interesting - the point to note is that this market is going to grow hugely - the size of the growth is the difference between accelerating technological change, and linear social structure plasticity. In short, a very, very good market to be in.

Where will value creation lie? I think the key dimension of value to consider in this market is Baudrillard's notion of seduction (versus economic production). More along these lines - a nice explanation of why simulation creates so much value for so many people.

-- umair // 11:37 AM //


Macropocalypse - Supply Side

"...John Hyatt, vice president of Irwin Brown Co. in New Orleans, a freight forwarder, says many U.S. producers are reconsidering how they operate their vaunted "just in time" systems, which cut costs by reducing inventories to a minimum. "The problem for manufacturers that use [just in time] is that they're really relying on transportation to serve as their temporary warehouse, but that's not working too well anymore."

Very interesting - clearly, there are many drivers; currency shifts, greater security, capacity crunches in emerging markets, etc. The point is that many older systems can't cope with the pressures of supplying enterprises in a (truly) globalizing economy - JIT is probably just the first real example; they will become more and more vivid as they move up the value chain.

-- umair // 11:30 AM //


European Innovation

"...James Dyson, the inventor and entrepreneur, will claim tonight that a "culture of rewarding failure" must be developed to help safeguard the future of engineering in Britain.

In the 29th Richard Dimbleby Lecture, Mr Dyson argues that Britain has for too long celebrated the individual who is effortlessly brilliant, like the Oxford double first, rather than the "determined slogger".

In fact, says Mr Dyson, B-grade scholars make the best inventors and business people. "They have learned to persevere and they're not scared of failure," he says."

Amen. Link.

-- umair // 11:30 AM //

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Sharp has a commanding lead in the LCD market. Asides from having great products, their marketing is no slouch. This is the first really creative corporate use I've seen of mixing television, with web advertising. A compelling example of using blogs as part of the customer experience. Link

-- kh // 3:55 PM //


The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is like keeping money under your mattress. Right now it has 700 million barrels of oil, enough to last the US for two months. It cost us $20 billion. We seem to always attack the symptoms rather than the cause, think about it. Link

-- kh // 3:02 PM //


Politics of the Day - Why They Hates Us

"...A typical letter to the editor in Time magazine says that "invading a country and causing thousands of deaths and incalculable misery to innocent people is a sin." True enough; but this statement ignores the context of the prewar situation in Iraq. It is estimated -- not by the US government but by the United Nations and by international human rights groups -- that Saddam's regime butchered some 300,000 people in Iraq over 28 years. Many more dissenters were imprisoned, tortured, and subjected to barbaric punishments such as having their ears or hands chopped off.

What's more, according to UN estimates, by 1996 half a million Iraqi children had died as a result of US-led sanctions."

Look. The rest of the world isn't stupid. Of course they understand this argument. The problem, in fact, is the converse - they extend this argument to it's logical conclusion.

If this moral justification is really the reason for our actions, why don't we act similarly and as dramatically in every egregious case of human suffering - in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Rwanda (to name just a few)?

The fact that we don't, many people feel, betrays a deeper motive for our actions (not to mention the fact that making this argument helps paint us as hypocrites). And, of course, in the limit, this argument is essentially to maximize social welfare at the expense of individual outcomes - a socialist argument.

Now, lots of you reading this will tell me that I don't speak for the rest of the world. Clearly not. I'm just outlining two things. First, the rejoinder to the 'we're saving them' argument I hear from friends and colleagues here in Europe and Asia. Second, more importantly - the implicit assumption this argument hinges on - that everyone and anyone who's anti-war is too stupid to carry it to it's fairly (simplistic) logical conclusion.

That, I think, is an absurd assumption to make - it's this kind of idiotic superiority complex that makes people poke fun at America.

-- umair // 2:24 PM //



"...Oil exporters have sharply reduced their exposure to the US dollar over the past three years, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements.

Members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries have cut the proportion of deposits held in dollars from 75 per cent in the third quarter of 2001 to 61.5 per cent."

No comment necessary.

-- umair // 2:21 PM //


Humor of the Day

The Medium Lobster vs Posner. Absolutely hilarious stuff.

-- umair // 2:09 PM //


New Markets - Green Economy

"...George Bush's new administration, and its supporters controlling Congress, are setting out to dismantle three decades of US environmental protection.

In little over a month since his re-election, they have announced that they will comprehensively rewrite three of the country's most important environmental laws, open up vast new areas for oil and gas drilling, and reshape the official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

...The administration's first priority is the controversial plan to open up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. Two years ago the Senate defeated plans to exploit the refuge - home to caribou, polar bears , musk oxen and millions of migratory birds - by 52 votes to 48.

...It plans to follow with an energy bill - also defeated in the last Congress - which would investigate vast new tracts for exploitation for oil and gas. It will also encourage the building of nuclear power stations, halted since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.

...Far more radical measures are also under way. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who is to help push through the energy bill, has also announced a comprehensive review of the Clean Air Act, one of the world's most successful environmental laws.

Environmentalists predict the emasculation of the Act, which has cut air pollution across the country by more than half over the last 30 years. Not to be outdone, the Republican chairman of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, has announced a review of the Endangered Species Act, for the protection of wildlife. The law has been the main obstacle to the felling of much of the US's remaining endangered rain forest. And in a third assault, Congressional leaders have also announced an attack on the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires details of the environmental effects of major developments before they proceed."

The problem with all this legislation is simple: consumers and producers alike are beginning to value green products more highly than non-green products. So legislation like this only opens up absolutely enormous market spaces for entrepreneurs to essentially privatize the old laws, and reap huge rewards in doing so. Stay tuned to this space.

-- umair // 2:01 PM //


Networking 3.0

Is exactly like networking 1.0, but virtualized - Jigsaw launches today.

-- umair // 1:56 PM //


Growth of Blogging

One of the first proper (equity) trading blogs - The Kirk Report. Recommended.

-- umair // 1:50 PM //


Media 2.0

Tim Wu interview. Some of the same old Lessig positions, some interesting points:

"...I think things are even worse than Cass Sunstein predicted. What Cass wrote about in the 1990s was the basic problem of debate polarization. But I don�t think he expected that even facts themselves would come up for grabs, leaving each side living in fully constructed parallel universes of disinformation.

...I don�t blame the blogs. Here is the problem: we are living with the unexpected consequences of low-cost information dissemination, or �cheap speech.� Cheapness is generally good, but it also creates strange consequences. Cheap corn, for example, makes us fat. Cheap drugs, like crack cocaine, can destroy neighborhoods. And cheap information is making us stupid."

This is what I call hyperpolarization. I don't think it's only a consequence of the cost of information - it's a consequence of the cognitive cost of dissonance versus the cheaper cost of reinforcing information. In other words, it's more expensive to deal with reality than it is now to find info that agrees with what you already believe.

This is what's creating the market spaces detailed below.

-- umair // 1:50 PM //


The Politics of Market Space

It's interesting to see how political hyperpolarization is creating huge market spaces. Here's an example - Discovery's moribund Wings Channel is being repositioned as the Military Channel:

"...Discovery is partnering with the likes of the USO, the National D-Day Museum, the Military.com web site, and the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation to develop programming for the channel, along with educational campaigns and public service announcements."

Link. Now, whether or not you think this is propaganda - there's a huge amount of space in this new market for complementors and imitators. Also interesting to note that in other hyperolarized countries, this market's been around for a long time - they've all got military TV channels, radio stations, etc, already.

-- umair // 1:41 PM //



The Post-PC era. Some interesting thoughts, no easy answers.

-- umair // 1:36 PM //


(Not) Next Big Things

Economist Leadership Forum's Tech Panel predictions for disruptions:

"...Now for the panel's predictions on hot technologies for 2005:

Vivek Badrinath, CTO at Orange, said: "Broadband everywhere - the promise is coming to be real - we need to see what the customers do with it now."

Jean-Philippe Courtois, CEO for Microsoft Europe, said: "Rich and real-time collaboration will integrate into business life with VoIP and other networks talking to each other."

Christian Morales from Intel predicted more digitalisation of the home and workplace and the continued march of wireless.

Bell predicted that network management software in large data centres would have the biggest impact because it will allow CIOs to manage system migrations which will save them money.

Simon Powell of Comtec said: "The emergence of intelligent search engines is going to be the biggest change for the travel industry."

I don't think any of these are really on the money.

-- umair // 1:24 PM //


Dumb to Smart

"...A posh stationers in London's Covent Garden has unveiled an "interactive shop window" (ISW) which lets window shoppers see what's on offer before going into the store. Described as a "merging of 'clicks and bricks'", this latest shopping gimmick to hit the Bureau stationery shop is a "blend of the on and offline shopping experience"."


-- umair // 1:21 PM //


Link of the Week - Bubble Science

Very interesting stuff - applying nonlinear dynamical models to sales data:

"...Best-selling books typically reach their sales peaks in one of two ways. The less potent way is by what Sornette calls an "exogenous shock," which is brief and abrupt. An example is "Strong Women Stay Young" by Dr. Miriam Nelson, which peaked on the list the day after a favorable review in the Sunday New York Times. A second example is Sornette's own 2002 book, "Why Stock Markets Crash: Critical Events in Complex Financial Systems," which spiked following a favorable review by Jon Markman on CNBC and TheStreet.com. "On Jan. 17, 2003, my book was ranked 2,000-something and then suddenly it was No. 17," Sornette recalled. "A few hours later, it was in the top 10. As a physicist, it looked to me like an exogenous shock to the system."

Sales are typically greater, however, when a book benefits from what Sornette calls an "endogenous shock," which progressively accelerates over time, and is illustrated in the book business by favorable word-of-mouth. Such books rise slowly, but the sales results are more enduring, and the decline in sales is slower and more much gradual, he found.

An example includes "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," which reached the best-seller list two years after it was published, without the benefit of a major marketing campaign. The book was popular with book clubs and inspired women to form "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" groups of their own. A second example is Nora Roberts' novel, "Heaven and Earth (Three Sisters Island Trilogy)," which peaked only after a slow rise and also fell slowly, which Sornette attributes to word of the book spreading among friends and family.

The slower peaks tend to generate more sales over time, Sornette said.

"Word-of-mouth can spread like an epidemic," he said.

The trajectories of many books' rankings are combinations of both kinds of peaks, Sornette says, which suggests that an effective, well-timed marketing campaign could combine with a strong network to enhance sales.

..."Is it possible to derive a quantitative law of how book sales behave?" Sornette asks. "We have derived a law of how a sale's shock to the system will jump up and decline over time. The books we analyzed behaved the same way. We can statistically predict how the system will evolve, how sales peaks can emerge, and we can predict the expected decline slope for books that rise sharply."

Basically, a quick read of these models tells me they apply sandpile (ie avalanche) models to expectations - this creates oscillating positive feedback in herding, which is a nice model for bubbles.

More links: Sornette's site. Interesting essay 1. Interesting essay 2. Interview:

"...What we have found in our studies [Johansen and Sornette, 2002] is that basically 2/3 of all shocks�of all dramatic crashes--can be attributed to an endogenous origin as opposed to exogenous origin.

...When this 30% drop is analyzed statistically at the daily scale, as is usually done in standard statistical analysis, it becomes three independent events of 10% drop. A 10% drop for example on the NASDAQ occurs once every four years statistically. It is an event that has a probability of one in one thousand to occur at any given day. It is not that rare. In contrast, what is very rare is to witness three such daily losses occurring in a run of three consecutive days, cumulating into a 30% drawdown. It is such drawdown that is hurting your portfolio, not really the daily losses, but the runs of losses. This is why I stress in my research the important of looking at these drawdowns which are much better measures of the large risks and the crashes. Now the probability of three such 10% drop events to occur in a run is the probability of one event -- times the probability of the second event -- times the probability of the third event. That is one in one thousand to the power cube. That gives a probability of one in one billion. Translated into the time of recurrence of such a run or a drawdown of 30%, it corresponds to one event in four million years.

Thus, people who are not taking into account the fact that you have a run or drawdown, which gives rise to the dramatic drawdowns, are providing an incorrect description of the event because they would predict that such events would occur once in four million years. Such large recurrence time means that such an event is practically impossible and one should never observe it. In reality, drawdowns of 30% or more are seen very often these days. So, what is the solution of this puzzle? It is that the market is characterized by the existence of strong dependencies between successive days. Such strong dependencies are however rare and difficult to qualify and detect by standard statistical techniques. We have developed specific tools to quantify them. We say that these strong dependencies occur intermittently in pockets of predictability."

-- umair // 1:20 PM //


Malware Markets

Phishing increases massively and discontinuously - malware arbs are plugging the gaps in the market.

-- umair // 1:19 PM //


Genome Economy

Evidence that viruses share a common ancestor. Not just cool, but most likely highly useful:

"...While viral lineage is in itself a question that interests scientists, research in this area may ultimately inform anti-viral drug discovery. Structural similarities in viruses may point to sites of enzymatic activity that could be targeted with drugs."

-- umair // 1:16 PM //



I don't link much to bioethics/politics, because I think it's a field going in circles. But here's a very thought-provoking piece - the first I've read in a while:

"...Paul McHugh, one of the council's moderates, finds the idea gruesome. He calls the proposed creation a "weird genetic hybrid" that is "very embryolike" and has been engineered to die. Hurlbut replies, coldly but correctly, that according to the technical definition favored by opponents of stem-cell research, the thing can't die because it was never alive."


-- umair // 1:14 PM //



"...A new research tool developed by an interdisciplinary team of psychologists and economists could help social scientists more accurately evaluate how well individuals and society are faring. The method offers a new way to characterize the daily life experience of individuals, aimed at providing a measure that could be used in assessing social interventions, including clinical trials. Its developers are working on a way to use the method in calculating a "National Well-Being Account," to provide a broad measure of the well-being of people of all ages, akin to the economic measure Gross Domestic Product.

...In the DRM, participants revive memories of the previous day by writing a short diary. They are told to think of their day as a series of scenes or episodes in a film. Next, they answer a series of questions about each episode, including where they were, what they were doing, whom they were with, and how they felt during the episode. The goal is to provide researchers with an accurate picture of the moment-to-moment experiences associated with daily activities."

New metrics like this are sure to open up huge new market spaces.

-- umair // 1:13 PM //


Genome Economy


"...By comparing the differences between the genetic material of living mammals, the researchers have now produced what they say is a highly accurate reconstruction of a section of the ancient creature's genetic sequence."


-- umair // 1:06 PM //


Next Big Things - Drivers

Wired highlights something I've been thinking about for a while:

"...Several years ago, Monderman ripped out all the traditional instruments used by traffic engineers to influence driver behavior - traffic lights, road markings, and some pedestrian crossings - and in their place created a roundabout, or traffic circle. The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous - and that's the point.

Monderman and I stand in silence by the side of the road a few minutes, watching the stream of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians make their way through the circle, a giant concrete mixing bowl of transport. Somehow it all works. The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact."

This is another example of the growth of public spaces, and/or the increasing ambiguity of private vs public spaces. This dynamic will be a key driver of many of the Next Big Things - for example, your formerly 'dumb' objects connecting to the Net will expose huge amounts of info about you, that, unexpectedly, you might want to reveal - because the gains might be greater than the potential costs in lost privacy.

-- umair // 1:05 PM //

Monday, December 06, 2004


"Long on Cash, Short on Ideas". As Joe Schoendorf said not too long ago - 'the way we finance technology companies in the US is broken'.

-- umair // 5:14 PM //


Interesting NYT piece about outsourcing from the firm's POV - worth linking to for the first firm's name alone: 'American Predator'.

-- umair // 5:12 PM //


NYT piece on innovation and disruption. Strange.

-- umair // 5:10 PM //


Simulation Economy

The Post on MMORPGs.

-- umair // 4:53 PM //


Innovation Engine

"...Many students and career counselors say the pressure to choose the "right" major is more intense than ever because of factors like rising tuition costs and the uncertain economy."

Welcome to the future - everyone's a beancounter with an MBA. This is optimizing the individual and the short-term at the expense of the long-term.

-- umair // 4:51 PM //


Information is Strategy

Search log analysis as predictor. Easy to see how simple technology can be leveraged to create a huge information advantage. Also easy to see how powerful information revelation is.

-- umair // 3:45 PM //


Markets Everywhere, for Everything

Mediamammon. So what's after markets? Smart markets - self-arbitraging markets, etc. Very interesting stuff to think about.

-- umair // 3:42 PM //


Blogging from India...

Pretty cool to be back home after a long time. First impressions : the air in new Delhi is much cleaner than before, thanks to the conversion of all public transportation to CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). New Delhi now has world's largest zero emission public transport system. Meanwhile, the President of India put forward a vision for developing the Moon as a hub for energy and telecom.

-- Mahashunyam // 3:23 PM //


Marketing 2.0

NYT article about Bzzagent - who we talked about a few months back. Is C2C the future of marketing? Yup. But in very different ways from Bzzagent's agitprop - the trick will be to harness the honesty and authenticity that emerges in consumer conversations.

-- umair // 1:50 PM //


Industry Structure - Media 2.0

Why traditional big media must stay hidebound and why open-source media has a massive vital point to strike:

"...According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003�99.8 percent�were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group."

-- umair // 1:05 PM //


Media 2.0

Got an email asking me to justify my claim that publishers will fragment into high-quality markets and low-quality open-source bazaars. Here's why:

"...This is what you won't see on CNN or on MSNBC or CBS News or on any major media Web site anywhere and especially no goddamn way ever in hell will you see it within a thousand miles of Fox News."


-- umair // 1:01 PM //



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