Saturday, June 05, 2004

What Would Google Buy?

Google's Initial Public Offering seems fueled by the necessity to have made an SEC filing anyway, and the desire to sell some shares to reward employees - all of who own some stock in the company.

There's one topic that I haven't seen much focus upon. And that is, what will Google do with all of the money raised from the IPO?

But it's one of the topics that has me concerned. The Motley Fools joins me in speculating just exactly what is on Google's Billion-Dollar Shopping List?

Just to add a little more to the mix then those companies the Fool discusses, I like to add a company that I brought up a few posts below - Craigslist. Pure speculation on my part, without the faintest amount of inside knowledge, or anything beyond a feeling. It has the same feel to it that made Blogger's Pyra Labs such an attractive acquisition to Google.

What companies would you buy if you had a million to spend?

Sites that Use Spyware Are Some of It's Biggest Targets

Some inconsistencies are difficult to wrap your head around.

I remember sitting down a few years ago after cooking breakfast for the staff of the restaurant I worked at, and listening to the bartending groaning. The place opened at 11:00 am, and the staff all joined together for a pre-work meal. It didn't sound like our drink-mixer had his head on straight that morning.

It was a normally a nice time, where morale was boosted, and comraderie was fostered. But not every morning.

I was working my way through college, and this was a pretty good job, especially considering their "all you can eat" policy for kitchen crew. On good days, when everyone was happy, the work went really quickly.

But, it was easy to see that our man behind the mixed drinks wasn't happy. Considering that he was one of the first persons that people would see as they walked through the door, that wasn't a great way to start the day.

I asked what was wrong. He looked at me, and confessed that he had been up most of the night talking to one of the people he sponsored from AA. The person had relapsed, and needed someone to talk with. He was the one.

While I was filled with sympathy, the oddity of the statement filled me with some surprise. I tried, but couldn't stop myself. I asked, "doesn't it strike you as unusual that you're a member of AA, you're complaining about someone who is having trouble because they couldn't resist alcohol, and you're a bartender?"

To further fuel the fire, these words followed from my mouth, "Doesn't that seem a little ironic to you?"

Funny, but he quit the restaurant a few weeks later. I'm not sure why, but I hope that he found something other to do than feed drinks to people.

A post by Ben Edelman uncovers what appears to be a bit of a business enigma along the same lines - Dell's Spyware Puzzle not only looks at Dell's unusual relationship with a spyware company, but also Yahoo's.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Just What are Nerd Values, and How Did They Help Craig?

Ask me yesterday what I thought of Craig's List, and I would have told you that, "it's phenomenal," and that, "Craig deserves any success that he gets."

I don't know Craig.

I don't even read along on his personal blog. But, I know that his site started out small. That it contains many ads that are free, that allow people to help each other.

I pointed my father at the site a couple of months back, and told him about how great the classifieds from Craigslist were doing, and that it's an interesting model to base a web business upon.

It appears that I'm not the only one talking about it like that. A few newspapers have capitulated to Craig. They've been claiming that they can't compete with Craigslist's Classifieds.

I can see that.

Ask me today, and I'll probably tell you the same thing. But the timing is kind of funny. I got my first piece of spam this afternoon from a request for more information that I made a few months back. A local magazine was asking for writers to produce articles. In true Craigslist style, the advertisement didn't disclose very much about the people posting the job.

In the newspaper world of classified ads, I've always hesitated when seeing an ad that promised fame and fortune, and riches greater than what most entry level positions paid, but wouldn't get around to revealing much about the work to earn those. Selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door? Designer rip-off frangrances on city street corners? There are some lousy ways to make a buck. Not as bad as fishing for shrimp on the Gulf of Mexico on a boat too rickety to leave site of land. But bad.

Somehow, with Craigslist it was OK. The people placing ads were as much a nerd as I was.

Then I got an offer to join an online dating service, and offered money to sign up, and the person making the offer used my inquiry letter for the writing gig a few months back as an excuse for contacting me. It was a "pre-exisiting relationship" that must have made it OK to send out emails to me, and others like me.

I guess that as less nerds use Craigslist, and more marketers with ridiculous justifications start, it may lose some of its glitter. I hope I'm mistaken.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Only Constant is Change

I've seen the impacts of changes both large and small, from the introduction of a new computer system to a migration to a new office building.

When you bring in new means of conducting business, new methods of interacting, and new approaches to old problems, you run into some resistence. I can't count all the times I've been told by someone that "that isn't the way we've done it in the past" or "that isn't part of my job."

Change can be good. Change can bring catastrophe. It doesn't hurt to be forewarned, and to read through something like this article on 10 Principles of Change Management

Change does happen all the time. The better you're prepared to deal with it, the less it will harm you.

How Did You Get This Number?

A nice look at the implementation of the Do Not Call Registry from the FTC in CIO magazine, called How the FTC Rescued the Dinner Hour.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Letting the Numbers Go

The rant over at Seth Godin's Blog on The Curse of Great Expectations is a lot of fun.

There are times when you have to put the yardstick aside, stop counting, refuse to measure, and just let go. I did some of that this weekend, and I anticipate doing even more of it this summer.

It's great to be able to measure success by numbers, and to capture positive and negative trends, but it's also easy to get obsessive over those figures.

I have a couple of friends who have been in business together for twenty five years. Their business makes enough for them to survive week after week with a little extra to put away for a rainy day. They have no expectations of wild growth, and no desire for it.

I see so many who look at return on investment (ROI) as the first measure of whether or not they should even get involved in a company. A recent article I came across actually even advocated that the first calculation be figuring the potential value of a company at its Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Most businesses never make it to an IPO, and often have no desire to get there. The owners recognize that once a business gets to a certain point, they are no longer doing the part of the business that attracted them to it in the first place, but are managing others who perform those tasks.

Full Contact Golf

I know golf doesn't need saving. I know that it's successful, and that as a sport it ranks amongst the most watched and is an entertaining diversion for many participants.

But I'll confess that it makes me sleepy. Watching it, or playing it, or even reading about it has the same effect that an extra large turkey dinner on a lazy Thanksgiving afternoon does on me. And just why are those announcers whispering? So they don't wake me up?

I've contemplated changes to the sport that would make it more fun to watch. A full contact version, with the winner of each green as first to get to each hole with the ball could be fun. Strokes don't matter - speed does. Armored padding optional. I could foresee motorized and unmotorized versions. I wonder if I could sell Fox on the idea. We could show it to the same folks who are currently enjoying slamball.

One idea I didn't consider was Urban Golf. I'd travel to London to play that.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Hack Your Car

Ever have the "check engine light" illuminate your dashboard? Not much you can do about it, huh?

Lifts engine cover. Yep, it's an engine. Check!

I remember having that light come up on me. Car seemed fine. I hadn't heard anything unusual. Gas mileage was great. I suspected something pretty serious, having never had that light come on after miles and miles and miles of trouble free driving.

Maintainance. No problems. Check the fluids. Replace parts when necessary. Standard maintainance.

I anticipated a big fee at the garage. Brought it to the mechanic. Found out that the light went on automatically when I reached a certain mileage point. Left angry at the car, its manufacturer, the mechanic, and myself.

Wired looks at the ever increasingly computerized automobile in an article titled Drivers Want Code to Their Cars. Some of the horror stories that are uncovered in the article show a considerable lack of usability and customer service.

As cars get more complex and computerized, are non-dealer mechanics at risk of losing the ability to work on those cars?