How to Name a Product

Dave Winer has some ideas:

1. Make a list of adjectives that apply to the product, things you want to convey in the name. If you don’t have such a list you’ll never know how to judge the potential names you come up with.

2. Using a thesaurus look up some of the adjectives. Let your mind wander. It’s important to play at this stage. Think of people who exemplify the traits listed in step 1. Think of places. Historical periods. Don’t be linear. Call a friend and read off the list in step 1 and ask them to blurt out any words they think of. Make up words that convey the adjectives.

3. Now go into evaluative mode on the list from step 2. Cross off words that are descriptive. Those won’t pass muster as trademarks. Keep proper names. Made-up words are especially good. At any point you can jump back to step 1 or 2, and add to your lists. (In fact if you don’t I suspect your process isn’t working very well.)

4. Look up the words from step 3 on a search engine. Cross off names that are products, formats, standards, or in any way are associated with your industry, no matter how remote. Save yourself grief later.

5. Pass the list from step 4 over to a trademark attorney to check them in the USPTO database.

I would add that one also needs to check if the .com is available for the name one has thought of.

Economics and Steven Levitt

The Probability That a Real-Estate Agent Is Cheating You (and Other Riddles of Modern Life) is the title of this NYTimes profile of the 36-year-old University of Chicago’s professor and editor of The Journal of Political Economy.

Levitt is a populist in a field that is undergoing a bout of popularization. Undergraduates are swarming the economics departments of elite universities. Economics is seen as the ideal blend of intellectual prestige (it does offer a Nobel, after all) and practical training for a high-flying finance career (unless, like Levitt, you choose to stay in academia). At the same time, economics is ever more visible in the real world, thanks to the continuing fetishization of the stock market and the continuing fixation with Alan Greenspan.

The greatest change, however, is within the scholarly ranks. Microeconomists are gaining on the macro crowd, empiricists gaining on the theorists. Behavioral economists have called into doubt the very notion of ”homo economicus,” the supposedly rational decision-maker in each of us. Young economists of every stripe are more inclined to work on real-world subjects and dip into bordering disciplines — psychology, criminology, sociology, even neurology — with the intent of rescuing their science from its slavish dependence upon mathematical models.

Faceted Classification for Websites

Kim writes about ideas which would be useful for self-publishing (ala Movable Type) and community-publishing (ala Wiki):

Faceted classification is a technique that lets you categorize “things” into multiple overlapping hierarchies. For example a Madonna CD might be categorized under “Artists / Madonna” as well as “Format / Compact Disc” and “Price / $10 – $15”. The advantage of this is that it doesn’t force a dominant decomposition upon the user (to borrow a phrase from Aspect Oriented Programming). For example, one user might restrict themselves to cheap CD’s first, while another user might want everything Madonna, cost be damned.

Here’s a quick list of the requirements I’m envisioning:

– Web-based administration and editing.
– Multiple navigation paradigms:
— linear — previous and next links
— hierarchical — children and parent links
— web — links between nodes, possibly bi-directional
— feed — every combination of categories has its own RSS feed
— search — all text is keyword searchable
refinements — automatically suggests sub-categories to narrow the search
– Automatic tagging of author and date — this would make weblog-style sites relatively easy to create.
– Permissioning — restrict which users can create new items, change categorizations, etc.
– Comment facility — this affects the permissioning system.
– Publically-editable categorization — this also affects the permissioning system.
– Database backed — this kind of site simply has too many pages to use static pages.
– Easy to install — perhaps CGI?

What kind of site would this system be useful for? Well I could use it for my history idea, for one. It would also be useful for catalog sites like freshmeat. And it might encourage a weblog-wiki hybrid that people might find useful.

The underlying assumption I’m making is that if you make software that structures information differently, then it will find its own unique uses. Think of the difference between web pages (one-way links, read-only), weblogs (single author, public comments, chronological), newsgroups (subject categories, threaded discussions), wiki (interlinked, publically editable), and instant messages (immediate, point-to-point).

Importance of PR

VentureBlog quotes Abigail Johnson:

If a company is trying to define and lead a market, a down, quiet market is a great opportunity to take the time for the market education process that will inevitably be needed. Regardless of the state of the market, education will be needed. But in today’s market, an interesting, new idea can get an unfair mindshare compared to the way it was a few years ago. And, if a special, potential leader doesn’t do this, there is a good chance that they will go through their life as an also-ran.

What are the benefits of well-thought out and executed strategic communications? Those who lead the market ultimately can lower their cost of capital. This may manifest in many ways:

a. Better strategic partnerships
b. Better employees
c. Higher prices for products
d. Better valuations
e. Etc.

What’s involved in such strategic communications and market education?

Step One: Define the vision and the company’s core differentiation

Step Two: Articulate these clearly

Step Three: Begin to seed the market to begin to get influencers to see the world from a new perspective

Step Four: Continue this process through education, announcements, strategic marketing activities, etc.

Step Five: Continue this process through education, announcements, strategic marketing activities, etc.

Step Six: Continue this process through education, announcements, strategic marketing activities, etc.

Notice that this is NOT publicity or hype. Though some of the tools used to accomplish this strategic communications probably include working with the press and analysts, the goal of this kind of effort is a long-term market understanding of a company’s leadership.

My message is: it’s time for you to help companies understand the opportunity they are facing and to seize the day to define their fundamental differentiation and strategic communications plan.

The advice has come at the right time for us!

Digital Divisions

Dr. Fariborz Ghadar is Director of the Center for Global Business Studies at Penn State. He writes:

The business community will need to embrace two major impacts of technology for the next quarter century: First, the spread of technology will drive the more developed nations of the world and their businesses closer together. Second, this same spread of technology will leave less developed nations behind unless action is taken.

Over time, countries and alliances will build up technology reserves in the form of human experience and physical capital that allow them to better exploit the research done around the globe. But countries and industries unable to break free from an isolationist mindset will find themselves continually outmaneuvered by these colluding corporate empires, and as a result will be left to the wayside.

Unable to take advantage of the research done in the high-income nations and lacking the resources for investment or the requisite infrastructure to attract foreign capital, impoverished nations will find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle in which they are unable to reach the critical mass of technological prowess needed to break through into the world scene.

As a result of this, some countries will be left on the far side of a massive technology gap.

One possible solution for breaking this chain of events is to develop the natural resources of a country in the hope that any newfound wealth will be adequate enough to introduce new technology.

An alternative solution could come in the form of technology transfers. The idea here is that as technologies age, less developed countries will narrow the technology gap by gaining a comparative advantage due to the reduced spending on R&D and that the labor in the more developed countries could be better spent on a more advanced product, leaving a market for the less skilled to fill.

But both of these options require a tremendous amount of foresight on the part of a nation in terms of resource management, a good legal system to protect the interests of investors, and the will to aggressively invest in technologies that may flounder, a hard proposition for a country with little to spare.

The ultimate goal for a country is to harness its leadership skills and its infrastructure in the hope of “leap-frogging” ahead, in which a nation goes directly to an advanced system like fiber optic cable for its telephone needs, while skipping an antiquated technology like copper cable. If these nations fail to reach par in terms of technological advancement, their shortcomings will be felt well beyond the boundaries of their own state.

This is where the next set of opportunities lie: enabling the emerging markets (technology impoversihed nations) to adopt affordable technology solutions to catch-up (and perhaps leapfrog), thus crossing the technology chasm.

Zope

Jon Udell writes about the content management platform: “For years I’ve been following the adventures of Zope, an open source application server that is particularly adept at content management. The Zope engine and its layered applications are written in Python, and the whole system is built on top of a Python-based object database called ZODB. Having done a lot of Zope development myself, I know firsthand how powerful and productive this arrangement can be. Admittedly it’s an unorthodox approach that an enterprise IT planner might be reluctant to bet on. But as I learned recently on a visit to Zope’s headquarters in Fredericksburg, Va., some big organizations are doing just that. NATO’s worldwide intranet, for example, is based on Zope.”

RSSJobs

RSSJobs is yet another innovative use of RSS. Here’s what the site says:

Are you looking for a new job? Are you using the internet? Do you have search agents saved on Monster, Dice, HotJobs, and countless others? Do you have the time and patience to weed through all the job listings on all the job boards you would like to check on a daily basis?

Imagine creating all of your search agents in one place, and viewing the results all at once. Imagine knowing at a glance which listings are new, and which you have already seen. Imagine spending less time checking more job boards than you do now. Imagine doing this throughout the day, when you want to, and on your schedule.

RSSJobs allows you to create and save searches for Monster, Dice, HotJobs,and more in one location, then delivers the results to your favorite RSS Reader.

TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India 2: How TIC and RISC facilitate Education

The purpose of education is to empower children with the requisite tools to go through life with the appropriate knowledge to make the right decisions. Not only is education important, computer education too is critical considering the role that technology plays in our lives, and is likely to play in the coming years. While no computer can replace a good teacher, it is not always possible to get good teachers in schools in developing nations, especially in the interiors. This is where computer-enabled education can complement the teacher in the classroom. Besides, a digital library and the Internet can help enhance and widen the learning process. It would be nice to see some of the scientific concepts brought alive through animations, making for a richer and more interactive learning.

A school is an ideal location for a TeleInfoCentre (TIC) because it is already seen as a bastion of knowledge, and is respected by most people. The TIC can be located at every primary and secondary school. During school hours, the computers are used to complement the teacher in providing IT and IT-enabled education to the students. After school hours, the centre can provide community services, some of which can be priced. This approach has multiple benefits:

  • Computers will attract students to schools. As has been said: You bring computers into schools, you bring children to schools.
  • During school hours, the multiple computers in the TIC become educational terminals for the children, complementing the teacher. The computers can also assist in personalising the education based on the student, which a single teacher catering to multiple levels of students. Thus, for example, the computer could remember the hardspots of students and test them on those to ensure they learn better.
  • After school-hours, the computers could be used for various community services, thus serving the needs of the village as a whole. This ensures that no additional infrastructure is needed.
  • By locating the TIC in the school, the image of the school and interest of the community in the school itself are both increased. This heightened participation will also result in better education for the children.
  • The same TIC platform can be used to provide literacy for the village residents.
  • The Entrepreneur managing the TIC could be the school teacher, who could be provided the appropriate training. This will also result in greater respect for the school teacher in the village.
  • In addition, various youths can be provided with possible jobs in data entry and other related areas, providing the prospect of using the village TICs as resources for IT-enabled services at the village-level. This employment opportunity will further create a positive environment for education.

    We saw earlier that the monthly operating cost of a TIC-3 is Rs 9,447 while that of a TIC-10 is Rs 18,587. If a TIC-3 supports 100 students and a TIC-10 supports 1,000 students, on the assumption that each student can spend Rs 20 per month on computer and computer-enabled education, the TIC-3 will thus generate Rs 2,000 per month from education, while the TIC-10 will generate Rs 20,000 per month from education. Thus, by itself, the TIC-3 will need to generate an additional income of about Rs 7,500 per month for breakeven, while the TIC-10 can completely break-even on earnings from education itself (generating a surplus of about Rs 1,500 per month).

    A TIC-3 is most likely to be at a primary school, while a TIC-10 is most likely to be at a secondary school. Primary schools are present in almost every village. Thus, the TIC-3 may need to be partially subsidized by the government if the earnings from the other services are not enough. This is to be seen as an investment in primary education.

    There are multiple ways by which the TIC can generate additional revenue which can bring down the cost of student education:

  • The TIC can charge a fixed subscription fee for a base set of services (eg. adult education, email, email, etc.)
  • The TIC can take up data entry jobs or other such work to better leverage the computers that it has.
  • The state / district can pay for some of the services that it uses. For example, on account of the TICs, the information collection and dissemination costs can be reduced. Part of those savings could be channelised through to the TIC.
  • Some funds could be allocated from the village for the operation of the TIC, since the village administration will also be a significant user and beneficiary.
  • Additional services can be offered for the villagers beyond the base set, which can result in more revenue.
  • Advertisements can be shown on the screens to create a revenue stream from companies interested in reaching the rural markets.

    By making computers available in schools at the point of delivery of education, TICs thus play a critical role in the facilitation of primary and secondary education. In addition, the same platform can be used for delivery of adult and vocational education.

    The Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons (RISC) centre, which would be within a distance of 10-15 kilometres of the TICs, would function as a local support center. The RISC is where teacher training can be conducted on a regular basis. Given the current state of the infrastructure in villages, the creation of RISC precedes or at least goes hand in hand with TIC in villages.

    Tomorrow: Increasing Market Access

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