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A MySpace Page That Doesn't Induce Seizures…

And here I thought all MySpace pages were ugly. I guess in the hands of the right people…

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Your Monoculture or Mine?

Mike "TechCrunch" Arrington uses a minor Google gaffe—a Google employee mistakenly posts a story bound for her personal blog to an official Google blog—to cast a critical eye on Google's security:

Google is pushing full steam ahead with their office strategy, and their hope is to convince a lot of individuals and businesses to trust Google enough to store their documents on Google’s servers instead of their own computers, or servers under their control.

The fact that unauthorized document access is a simple password guess or government “request” away already works against them. But the steady stream of minor security incidents we’ve seen (many very recently) can also hurt Google in the long run. Running applications for businesses is serious stuff, and Google needs to be diligent about security.

I'm not one to downplay security, but some perspective here:. Microsoft has struggled with security, with much broader exposure, for years. And Oracle recently announced patches for 101 vulnerabilities in their products this quarter alone.

Still, a note of caution is appropriate; whenever one vendor's platform dominates, it creates a monoculture that works against security. It wouldn't improve things much to trade a Microsoft monoculture for a Google one.

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Grid-Server

Grid-Server: This service from Media Temple offers a monster shared hosting package that promises to grow with your sites' needs, all running on a grid infrastructure. Just by way of comparison, this service promises 20X the storage and 5X the data transfer of my current hosting plan, for only 2X the price. Yowza. [via TechCrunch]

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How Advertisers Are Letting Go, and Learning to Love Social Software

After a long (and occasionally interesting) article about how big brand marketers have tried to use MySpace, Friendster, YouTube, et al to reach buyers, an ad exec offers this story:

Sometimes marketers find that in the end, the unplanned is what works best. Crispin Porter placed a new crop of Volkswagen commercials on YouTube and a handful of people watched them. Then a user uploaded a grainy version of one of the same commercials. It has been viewed more than 1.7 million times.

“You can’t explain this,” said Mr. Benjamin of Crispin Porter. “Someone passed it on to a friend, who passed it to others, until eventually it gets in the right people’s hands. You just can’t predict what will happen.”

More than anything, this exposes traditional marketing for the house of cards it is: we've never been able to predict how an audience will react to a message (or a messenger), but the blunt instruments for measuring mass media have always allowed enough wiggle room to let a strategy appear to be successful.For over a century, advertisers haven't been able to tell which half of the dollar they're wasting.

Marketers have to let go of the idea that they can predict, and embrace the good news that, for the first time, they can actually measure. It's nice to feel you know what will happen, but it's huge step forward for marketers to be able to know, definitively what has happened.

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Listen…Shh…To What the Blogging People Say…

The mainstream shouts out to Technorati:

Corporations are growing increasingly conscious of the power, and potential pitfalls, of blogging. A favorable review from an influential blogger can help generate the kind of buzz around a new product that traditional advertising struggles to achieve. A negative write-up can help doom a product before it even hits the market.

Now many American brands, and some brands in other countries, are starting to include blogs in their marketing plans, and are catering to them at a much earlier stage.

Blogs are like the Marines: a brand can have "No better friend, no worse enemy," and companies whose key buyers live online are wise to tune into the conversation. The blogosphere isn't just an information-rich environment for marketers, it can also serve investors too. As VC Ed Sim points out, companies like Monitor 110 are attempting to use blog chatter as a Distant Early Warning for institutional investors.

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Barter 2.0

The Times takes a look at the swapping phenomenon, using Peerflix and La La as examples:

[A]ccording to Billy McNair, chief executive of Peerflix, a DVD trading service based in Palo Alto, Calif. The company’s 250,000 members post titles of DVD’s they are willing to trade on the Web site (peerflix.com), which then facilitates the swaps by giving members printable forms that include postage and the recipient’s address.

Even though digital distribution is presumed to be the future for media businesses, Mr. McNair says he believes that physical media will remain the bedrock of the industry and of his business for the foreseeable future. About 1.5 billion DVD’s are purchased annually in the United States, he said, or about 20 a household. “And our members say they purchase more DVD’s now because they know that after they watch the movie it’ll still have value,” he said.

McNair's point is true for all products: the existence of an aftermarket—even a barter-based one—gives people an incentive to buy more.

They're nice, lightweight businesses, too: all they're providing is a database and the accompanying business logic to match users. The postal service handles all the fulfillment. As eBay will tell you, it's good to be a marketplace.

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The Guy Behind the Guy at Apple

People often overlook the fact that Apple's more than just a successful design and marketing company—they're a well-run company, too. That's largely due to their #2 man, Tim Cook, profiled in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

When Mr. Jobs was recovering two years ago from surgery for pancreatic cancer, he placed the company's day-to-day operations in Mr. Cook's hands. Apple and people who know Mr. Jobs say the CEO is currently in good health and intends to remain at the company's helm for the foreseeable future.

Mr. Cook's low public profile notwithstanding, his contributions at Apple have earned him enough notice within technology circles that he is routinely solicited for CEO jobs, though the 45-year-old has voiced no near-term plans to leave Apple, say people who know him.

He pushed Apple parts suppliers to physically locate next to assembly plants for Apple products. That let the suppliers keep the parts in their inventory rather than Apple's own. By the end of the company's fiscal 1998 on Sept. 25 of that year, it held six days of inventory valued at $78 million, down from 31 days, or $437 million, the year earlier. Mr. Cook helped squeeze those figures down even further by the end of 1999, when inventory levels dropped to two days' worth, or about $20 million.

That's nearly a half-million of inventory off the books in three years. Apple's trailing 12 month inventory turnover ratio is 63.72, comparing favorably with efficiency poster boy Dell's 78.72, and blowing Gateway (19.82) and the big-iron-and-services-laden HP (9.86) out of the water. Apple manages to work this magic by making products people want (Steve's job) and keeping their manufacturing lean (Tim's job).

You can't help but wonder, though, when Steve goes (and, with his history with cancer, that could happen sooner than people—including Steve himself—might expect) is Tim the man to lead Apple?

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