A Global Obligation

May 29th, 2007

Dear all,

By now some of you will have heard my talk about my latest project – A Global Obligation. Well the good news is it’s open for all (Web 2.0-compliant beta mode of course!) Please do your part for humanity and check it out. If you have any feedback or bugs, please let me know. Of course, don’t let that stop you from sharing the word once you’ve donated!

Click the image below to donate!

If you can’t see it, you can access it via this URL instead.

Yes, we’ve got referrals tracking working, so refer all your friends, add a banner to your blog and make the biggest dent in the Universe you can!

Alignment

May 26th, 2007

This post by Seth Godin sums up nicely what’s wrong with most organisations. It certainly explains my daily frustrations in dealing with many incompetently-managed organisations.

What’s wrong with America…

April 12th, 2007

What’s wrong with America is exemplified by this experiment. Maybe it’s my upbringing, but if you did that here in Melbourne, there is no way it would be ignored like that. Reminds me of the Michael Moore ‘Dead guy’ (almost wrote ‘skit’) segment on The Awful Truth. Context indeed.

A DRM-Free World

February 14th, 2007

I usually whole-heartedly agree with John Gruber’s posts. This time, I think he’s got a little sloppy towards the end of his argument. Specifically:

People who are already buying from iTunes would continue to. People who refused to buy from iTunes because of DRM might start. And people who bootleg would continue to bootleg. This situation would be better for the music industry, not worse.

Gruber’s argument here doesn’t go far enough, and it makes a big difference to the likelihood of getting the Big 4 to agree to a DRM-free world. Talk profit. Specifically, the net increase in additional users purchasing songs and increased volumes of songs being purchased by existing iTunes (etc.) users as a direct input to the profit function.

“People who are already buying from iTunes would continue to (do so)”. False.
You need to talk in marginal numbers, comprising:

  • loss of sales (customers and customer downloads) due to greater ease of piracy
  • increased sales due to easier use of legally-downloaded music (as opposed to fear/hatred/dark side of DRM)

I would argue that the iTMS has been the most successful because it is the easiest to use. It’s still a nightmare. Anyone who has dealt with reformatting iPods, moving computers, etc. would attest to the ‘too hard’ nature of such processes for average consumers. Even if you don’t agree on that, there’s at least a significant marginal increase in utility as a result of no DRM. We already have some evidence for a relationship (probably non-linear) between utility and willingness to purchase legal music, on-line or off-line. For many consumers, buying a CD, ripping it and then adding it to their personal audio device of choice is of greater utility than buying something off the iTMS.

There also exists a general insensitivity to price, within a non-free non-inconsequential band. If only 10% (a guess) of people are buying legal music, chances are they’re a less price-sensitive bunch than the entire market. So the chances are they could afford and would willingly pay more. They won’t, due to market forces (price of CDs in comparison, competition in a high-margin industry), but knowing that they would is important. Knowing that your customers are primarily purchasing based on something other than price is the key to unlocking this whole mystery.

allofmp3.com has already shown people are willing to pay for (probably) illegal music (OK, they claim the site is legal in Russia, but I’m sure you could get stung on some kind of parallel importing/failure to pay customs rules, let alone the risk of going through such proceedings) because it’s easy to use. They’re banking on price sensitivity, but they’re really baiting people because of their ease of use, lack of restrictions –> increased utility.

So as thousands have already said, Apple does have an interest in expanding the size of the market, given they have very little room to grow in gobbling up more of the pie. We do also need to consider fixed costs vs marginal costs. Sure, Apple is paying a hefty percentage to the record labels for each song, but there are significant fixed costs as well (e.g. iTMS staff salaries, marketing expenses, R&D amortisation, etc.). Given iTMS is hardly making any money (which is fine for Apple due to its status as an economic complement of iPods), Apple could be looking at it from a MES (minimum efficient scale) operations perspective and looking to drive further profitability from the iTMS. After all, if you own a business, you might as well try for a profit maximising result, even if you don’t have to.

Apple thus far has focussed on two things: becoming the power broker in the online music industry, and establishing the economic link between music sales and availability and iPod sales. Both of these serve as barriers to entry and protection against competition. Apple established the 2nd point long ago, but is only now in a position of sufficient clout that it can dictate terms to the record companies. The music execs have started to realise online sales are the way of the future. Their costs are lower and their profit higher. Their only concern is a flawed assumption that piracy kills the business model. They’ll soon wake up to this too. When they do, Apple is looking to be in a position to accept the supplicant grovelling to their new masters. And it will be a happy day for consumers.

Mileage

February 9th, 2007

Having just bought a new car, fuel economy is somewhat on my mind, as I compare that of my old Volvo 242GT with my new Mitsubishi Lancer ES 2006 manual, senze go-fast stripes. I quickly realised the majority of fuel savings would come not from a change in vehicle, but a change in driving habits. The following should exemplify this point:

The morning after I arrive, Hobbit and I squeeze into the front seat of the Ranger to join Wayne on a milk run. He starts the truck—well, gets it rolling—by releasing the emergency brake and putting the gearshift in neutral before jumping out and pushing the 3,330-pound vehicle down his sloping driveway with the engine off.

Here you go…

PC Recommendations

February 9th, 2007

In response to Richard’s post, I provide as a rough guide the following regarding any new PC purchase:

I echo those pains! John and I are constantly complaing about it: particularly Dell. Apple is nice and easy to follow. You can even run Windows on their MacBooks now 😉

My advice to people is thus:

1. If you’re buying a PC laptop, stick to the BUSINESS range models, as these almost always have far better industrial design and durability. e.g. Dell has two product lines: Latitude and Ispiron. The latter have heaps of features, but are hunks of junk. The former are pretty stable and reliable (although I’ve seen exceptions).

2. Either buy extended warranty, use a Gold credit card that gives you $warranty+12 OR buy the base model of something
e.g. Apple MacBook circa $1,500 will cost you ~$300 to make up 3 year’s warranty. Even given Apple’s high notebook resale values, the machine won’t be worth more than $400 in 3 years’ time. So warranty makes sense if you:
– can’t afford the risk of it failing in months 13-24
– buy warranty on everything else you buy
IMHO, if you NEVER buy extended warranties, you’re better off. It’s essentially self-insuring. But with the (e.g. ANZ Visa Gold) credit card bonus warranty, you can get the best of both worlds. ANZ Gold cards are $87 per year. NAB had a $0 first year special, ANZ probably have one too. Worth getting.

3. Factor on at least $300 per year in security software and PC technician costs per Windows computer. And that’s just to keep it working. (Obviously you can do this yourself)

4. Factor in another $300-$500 to get home wireless working reliably when not using Apple equipment. If you’re willing to put up with frustration and manual reconfiguration you can get around this, but these last two notes are for the uninitiated.

5. Buy a Mac
I used to be pro-Mac, then I was ambivalent (particularly when Macs were demonstrably slower), then impartial (“it depends…”) now I’m so totally pro mac that it’s not funny. Particularly with Boot Camp and Parallels. The hardware is better; the support costs (financial or otherwise) are significantly reduced; the ease of use is significantly enhanced.

6. Don’t touch Vista.
Nobody trusts Microsoft with an OS they’ve had 6 years to perfect. I’m recommending a 12-month wait on Vista (in which time we’ll see SP1, SP1a and the announcement of SP2 rush past). Then it will at least be acceptable to run.

Also note that the major reason for upgrading to Vista is to make your swanky new computer look swanky. Which means don’t buy the Home version, or you miss out on the swanky Aero interface. It’s no coincidence wanky is only one letter off…

Failsafe copying

January 15th, 2007

All I want for Christmas (a month late, but let’s assume OS X Leopard is Christmas :P) is an operating system that copies something from location A to location B, without choking in the middle. Do what you can, then give me a list at the end of what didn’t work. Or prompt me to continue or not. None of this waiting 3 hours for something to copy only to have one of the last 500 files not copy, then have the whole process stop. And I want it standard. filesync.exe is OK on windows (but takes too long), but there is nothing for Mac.
It should be standard.

End Rant.

New (additional) Blog!

November 29th, 2006

John Cleary and I have just launched Life With Mediocrity. You can read more about it at our About page, subscribe to our RSS or visit our homepage.

Please support us in our quest to rid the world of mediocrity and incompetence.

Sex and Religion

November 25th, 2006

Well, I’ve got 2 of the 3 taboos covered, but there was probably another somewhere I’m not supposed to mention…

Personally, in four years time, I’m looking forward to the Liberal Party being able to answer one simple question:
“What are you FOR?”

I think we have a pretty good idea what they’re against. It was enough to get my vote, but only ‘cos I don’t think much of the incumbent (being only about 1 wrung down the mismanagement chain from the guy who approved the US$36,000 toilet seat at NASA) and the rest of his staff. Of course, that’s not reason enough to give it to the Liberals (at a macro level), but it is reason enough NOT to give it to Braksy. Or at least to decline enough of it to make him think “Hmmm… mismanagement BAD mmmmkay?!” rather than “MUNCH! MUNCH! MUNCH! Fast Rail! MUNCH! Scorseby MUNCH MUNCH! Consultants MUCHMUNCHMUNCHMUNCHMUNCH! Cronyism MUNCH MUNCH!

Obviously, a highly reasoned political post, but you get the idea.

My prediction for the next election? Unless Bracksy does something completely unforgiveable (as opposed to just incompetent, which seems par for the course), he’ll win a record 4th term. Ironically, the only way we’re going to get a State Liberal and Federal Labour government (my vote-winning combination at this point – don’t call me partisan) is if the economy goes so far to shit that the incumbents take the blame, which, again ironically, they won’t deserve*. So we lose either way. So seems the natural order of things.

* I refer to Kennett and Keating as stalwarts for economic reform.

So, what we have is a disconnect between effort and result; intent and outcome. Mix that in with a little bit of “we stand for this -vs- we stand for this+1!” and no wonder you’ve got a thoroughly disinterested electorate.

Personally, I’ll vote for whoever can offer a sustainable transport model (even the Greens didn’t get that one right) and has a decent chance of getting it enacted (i.e. major party or holds balance of power). At least that will leave something semi-permanent as a legacy…

Incompetence

November 18th, 2006

This e-mail I received today is solid gold. Needless to say I am not a Sun Theatre employee and am subscribed to their mailing list.

Some things that immediately come to mind:

  • Pure incompetence
  • What a b****
  • Perhaps they should use specialised mailing list software…
  • Perhaps they should issue an apology…
  • Cool! Now I know how to scab free seats!
  • “Hi, Anne told me I could have a free ticket. Yes, that’s right. She sent me an e-mail this afternoon…”

Update

Yes, oops.

Apologies for yesterday’s email regarding Borat, which was meant to be an internal email to our staff rather than broadcast to you all at “sun mailing list.”

For the record, the email was sent as we were taken a little by surprise when the Friday night preview of Borat sold out, and we turned dozens of people away. So for Saturday night we wanted to make sure that anyone who came wanting to buy a ticket didn’t miss out.

Regards, The Sun.