Fortune on Blogging

Blogging is one of Fortune magazine’s ten trends of 2004.

The blogshort for weblogcan indeed be, as Scoble and Gates say, fabulous for relationships. But it can also be much more: a company’s worst PR nightmare, its best chance to talk with new and old customers, an ideal way to send out information, and the hardest way to control it. Blogs are challenging the media and changing how people in advertising, marketing, and public relations do their jobs. A few companies like Microsoft are finding ways to work with the blogging worldeven as they’re getting hammered by it. So far, most others are simply ignoring it.

That will get harder: According to blog search-engine and measurement firm Technorati, 23,000 new weblogs are created every dayor about one every three seconds. Each blog adds to an inescapable trend fueled by the Internet: the democratization of power and opinion. Blogs are just the latest tool that makes it harder for corporations and other institutions to control and dictate their message. An amateur media is springing up, and the smart are adapting. Says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Public Relations: “Now you’ve got to pitch the bloggers too. You can’t just pitch to conventional media.”

iPod Economics

[via Roland Tanglao] Andy Kessler writes:

Over the last year, two things have happened. First, Apple has increased their sales by over a third, almost all of it from increased sales of iPods those 2 million of them at $265 each last quarter and another 100 million songs sold via their iTunes service. An iPod is just the combination some Apple software, cheap disk drives and a $12 chip a Silicon Valley company named PortalPlayer. I calculated that Apple pays $200 each per iPod to Chinese assembler Inventec to slap it all together. Even with cheap labor, Inventec has almost no profits, Id bet under $10, probably more like $4. PortalPlayer, by the way, emails their design to Taiwan to be fabricated, with profits of some $5 per chip.

The second change since a year ago is that Apples stock has gone from $21 to $64. Pretty cool, capitalism at its best. Why? Because Apple keeps $65 per iPod – money chases profits! If you assume the stock increase is all due to the iPod (it is), then that business is worth some $15 billion. Add in PortalPlayers market value of almost $1 billion and you start to get a feel for how the world works. A $1.5 billion trade deficit increases wealth in the U.S. by some $16 billion.

TV’s On-Demand Future

Boston Globe writes:

The next generation of TV would hardly be recognizable to Philo Farnsworth, the farm boy who invented the medium. You’ll choose exactly which shows you want to watch, and watch them on your schedule, on whatever device is most convenient. You’ll even be able to “edit” a show yourself, choosing to watch only the scoring drives from Sunday’s Patriots game, or just the stories from the local news that relate to your neighborhood. The ads you see will be tightly targeted, pitching Jordan’s Furniture and Brinks Home Security if you’ve just bought a new house, for instance.

Cable companies, satellite companies, Internet companies, and even phone companies are all angling for a spot at the vanguard of the TV revolution. And Boston-area start-ups like Navic Networks, Gotuit Media, and NetCableTV want to be the arms merchants, supplying the infrastruc-ture and services that will be necessary to support the coming “on-demand” model of television: a medium controlled by the viewer, not by the networks.

“It’s a great time to be a consumer,” says Will Richmond, president of Broadband Directions, a consultancy in Newton. “You’ve got lots of companies investing to do things that are adding more value to the consumer’s life, giving them more control and more selection.”

Scott Kirsner writes about SeaChange International, Navic Networks, Akamai Technologies, Jeremy Allaire’s new company, Ucentric Systems, Broadbus Technologies, Gotuit Media and NetCableTV.

Starbucks as Software Process

Boing Boing points to this cool paper:

Starbucks, like most other businesses is primarily interested in maximizing throughput of orders. More orders equals more revenue. As a result they use asynchronous processing. When you place your order the cashier marks a coffee cup with your order and places it into the queue. The queue is quite literally a queue of coffee cups lined up on top of the espresso machine. This queue decouples cashier and barista and allows the cashier to keep taking orders even if the barista is backed up for a moment. It allows them to deploy multiple baristas in a Competing Consumer scenario if the store gets busy.

By taking advantage of an asynchronous approach Starbucks also has to deal with the same challenges that asynchrony inherently brings. Take for example, correlation. Drink orders are not necessarily completed in the order they were placed. This can happen for two reasons. First, multiple baristas may be processing orders using different equipment. Blended drinks may take longer than a drip coffee. Second, baristas may make multiple drinks in one batch to optimize processing time. As a result, Starbucks has a correlation problem. Drinks are delivered out of sequence and need to be matched up to the correct customer. Starbucks solves the problem with the same “pattern” we use in messaging architectures — they use a Correlation Identifier. In the US, most Starbucks use an explicit correlation identifier by writing your name on the cup and calling it out when the drink is complete. In other countries, you have to correlate by the type of drink.

Exception handling in asynchronous messaging scenarios can be difficult. If the real world writes the best stories maybe we can learn something by watching how Starbucks deals with exceptions. What do they do if you can’t pay? They will toss the drink if it has already been made or otherwise pull your cup from the “queue”. If they deliver you a drink that is incorrect or nonsatisfactory they will remake it. If the machine breaks down and they cannot make your drink they will refund your money.

Desktop Search and Mobile Phone

[via Smart Mobs] The Feature has an article by Mike Masnick:

There’s software that will let you log into your desktop from other machines (including mobile devices) and there are tools to sync your desktop to a server on a regular basis. However, if you’re mobile, these still have some limitations. The mobile interface and the desktop interface don’t always mesh — especially if you’re on the go and just need to dig up a quick bit of info from your desktop.

Venture capitalist Kevin Laws has noticed that a solution may be on the way — even if those responsible for it haven’t noticed it yet. A number of startups, along with all of the major search engines, are working furiously on desktop search products. These tools will scan your desktop and record everything from email to web sites surfed to word processing documents. Some, like Google’s beta desktop search tool, will then integrate the results into the standard Google interface. What Laws has noticed is that by adding a simple interface between the desktop search and a web server, you could easily search your desktop from afar, and quickly download whatever information you needed. If you made changes, you could then quickly upload them — or even (if the companies got ambitious) have it sync automatically.

TECH TALK: On Watching Swades: The Message

Swades is about an India most of us dont know and probably dont want to know. It is an India around us that is very different from us. We cannot get away from it. It stares at us in the form of children begging outside our cars closed window and us wishing that theyd just go away. It is an India that sits in between all those fancy high-rises and malls that are coming up we wonder if these eyesores could be erased. It is an India that we encounter occasionally as we take trips to ancestral hometowns and leave thinking how time has, for the most part, stood still. Even as Swades is about rural India, we cannot escape the symptoms in the slums of urban India. It is as much about the India we did not build after Independence poverty, overpopulation, illiteracy, malnutrition, darkness still reign across parts of India.

Swades is also a film about hope. It is about the difference that each of us can make in this other India. What this India lacks is vision, will and co-ordination. People there have for the most part accepted that things will be the way they are. The British may have left more than half a century ago, but large parts of India are still in a subjugation mindset some of it forced by circumstances, some of it accepted due to ignorance. One of us can transform the lives of a thousand. If Lagaan was about how a Bhuvan can bring about change from within, Swades is about how a Mohan Bhargava can bring about change from the outside freed from the shackles of the past of tradition and culture.

Each of us has to do what we are best at and at the time of our chosing. This change in us has to come from within. Some of us may accomplish this by being entrepreneurs, some by being engineers or doctors to bring about innovations that can make a difference, some by adopting schools or orphanages in this other India, and some by contributing financially. Swades is not about dramatic top-down change, it is about slow bottom-up transformation. It is about many micro-revolutions which need to take place all around.

Swades reminds us that even as one India grows, there is another India thats still far behind. And whether we like it or not, the land that both occupy is the same. One India cannot go too far leaving the other behind. We are one nation of a billion people. We are all part of one India. What the more fortunate among us have to do is to provide the leadership that can help bring about change in the other India. As we think about the problems of the other India, there are solutions that exist. But for making these real, we will have to leave aside some of our old mindsets.

Atanu Dey captures the essence of this one world: With maturity comes the realization that one is not just an Indian, or an Indian with a bit of American thrown in, but that one is a member of the extended human familySome of us have more money, or are more educated, or have different pigmentation. But seen from a sufficiently far remove, we are fairly indistinguishable. We have the same hopes and aspirations, fears and longings, desires and dreams. Our station in life is dictated by a random draw that was made by forces beyond our imagination even, leave alone our control.

Each of us (as the movies byline puts it we, the people), wherever we are, needs to make a commitment in our lifetime to bring about positive change in the land of our birth, one that was once great. We have the potential to make it great again. But for that, each of us has to discover a Mohan Bhargava and Ashutosh Gowariker in us to make a difference and go, light our bulbs. Swades beckons!

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