Monday, October 25, 2010

Email Facepalm

You would think that in today's age of computers in the workplace, the most basic form of work place communication -- that being E-mail -- would be the most effective form communication with colleagues. After all, this is an age of omnipresent technology, where you can access your work email from your notebook, pc, work mobile phone/blackberry/iphone, VPN from home ... and you can do so when you become available. That is, you can't "miss" it, because you're not in a meeting -- it's just there once that meeting is done.

However, on my current contract, it seems I am sending email to the Gliesa 581 system, as I never get an immediate reply and I almost always have to do a "manual" walk over to the persons at hand to get the information I need. In addition, I've started to email with just itemized points (no long winded sentences like my blog, clusters of chaff .. just to the point). A majority of the time these emails only require a "yes" or "no" answer. I still don't get it.

I have tried the "I will assume this is true if you don't reply" type emails, but they don't work either. I've been in meetings and burned some people, and that's not my intention as a contractor. (VP asks XYZ, I say ABC, Engineer says it's not that way, I retort I emailed them and they agreed because they didn't reply, Engineer gets roasted by VP for not replying) Of course, sometimes, I have to open a can of whoop a$$ (keeping in mind, I'm usually brought in when the locals aren't doing their job, dragging their feet, or unable to complete the tasks at hand). Oorah!!! :P

Anyway, it seems I have to continue sending emails and doing a manual follow-up -- wasting time as I walk around the building looking for people. It seems email is a big waste of time, but needed -- but the real question is, is there anything else on the horizon that will replace it? IM can work, but people never answer those either. Ideas? How about a cruel "Star Rating" system for your colleagues at work? (Don't email David, he has a 3 star rating for replies, so you know you'll have to go find the guy) That would be awesome. ;-)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Foursquare, Gowalla, and social network business models ...

As you may or may not know, I am a "part-time" user of both Foursquare and Gowalla. I say "part-time" because I normally forget to open the applications up when I go somewhere (unless I am out eating lunch by myself, or waiting for somebody and I find myself bored so I fiddle with my phone). With SMSs pretty cheap here in the Czech Republic (1 kč per SMS ... or, about .05 US cents), it's just much faster to SMS people if I want them to join me. Basically, what I really lack is incentive to use such apps on a normal basis.

Of course, in places like New York, where Foursquare was born and rules the city, you're much more likely to find "deals" ... ie ... electronic notices/coupons related to the places you visit. A somewhat crude form of location based advertising ... not quite as fancy as our Jellingspot data server we used to sell back in the early 2000s (bluetooth location based services platform), which we shelved a few years ago (no "easy to use" app stores existed then). But, it works.

Even this, however, isn't the greatest incentive. If they really want to grow -- they need to learn about viral marketing and/or viral sales teams. Imagine if I set up locations in Gowalla, and then made .1 cent for every check-in? Ok, maybe a bit far fetched, but maybe I could make a deal with my favorite locations -- for every check-in you bring them, you get .1 cent?

There are a ton of mini-viral marketing/sales activites they could do to stimulate exponential growth of their app use. A kind of virtual francising. This would be incentive for me to use and spread the usage of these applications. Heck, even a simple monthly lottery for people who check in would be a nice incentive. Everytime you check-in (at certain locations for example), your name goes into a virtual hat ... end of the month, there will be a drawing where you can win, ABC, XYZ, etc. Think about it. Thousands of users would then be pushing your product. You don't have to cough up a bunch of cash (although somekinda Google Ads like business model could be cooked up ...). Food for thought ...

Illustration from:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Well, I just noticed on my boy Justin's facebook page that he re-posted a totally awesome blog post from his friend Brian over in San Francisco who is really passionate about handplaning. [Check out his awesome GoPro video in the blog post]

What is handplaning? Basically, it's body surfing with a small board on your hand, which gives you more lift and more control in the water. Like a one handed "bodyboard" ... but, there is no board on your body -- just a fin on your hand. It looks totally fun!

Anyway, the guys who made Brian's handplane over at Enjoy Handplanes take old surf boards, cut off the noses, and make some cool ass looking handplanes. How cool is that? Recycling old surf boards to give a part of them a new life in the water. I think that's totally cool, so much so, that I'm gonna have to order one. Not sure how much handplaning I can do in the Vltava, but it's definitely a lot easier to travel with a handplane than a surfboard when I *do* get a chance to hit up some waves. Check them out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apple TV: New vs. Old

Recently Apple launched its new Apple TV for the amazingly low price of 99 USD (75 EUR / 1865 Kč). The previous Apple TV was considerably more, depending on the amount of storage you wanted. But, that's no longer an issue with the lastest Apple TV, because they no longer include ANY storage, so now you don't have to pick. ;-)

I could list the plethora of differences between the "old" (and my opinion) Apple TV and the new one, but the fine people over at Digital Trends have done a pretty good job comparing the New Apple TV vs. Old Apple TV.

What I will say is this -- cloud computing (ie... all of your hard drive storage is on the internets, not on your local computer) overall is pretty cool and I'm definitely not a cloud computing hater. I like it. But, Apple TV's new "stream only" approach is kinda limiting in some ways. What if I want to buy a movie? I can still buy movies on the old Apple TV ... and even via iTunes on my PC. But I cannot do it directly via the new Apple TV. I can only rent. This means I have to go into my office, turn on my computer, fire up iTunes, BUY a movie ... download it in total, and THEN! I can stream it from my PC to my new Apple TV and watch it in my living room on the large LCD TV ... seems like a longer process just to watch a movie (more steps in the revenue cycle, I think, aren't usually wise). Doesn't look like I can lug the new one to my mountain cottage either to watch movies (would need an internet connection to watch movies). I guess the limited internet connection mountain cottage types aren't their target market.

On the other hand, it removes some of the craziness of "syncing" content between systems (I mistakenly deleted a purchased movie off of my iTunes on my PC, and it then "synced" (deleted) on my Apple TV, so I lost the movie I purchased) ... so from this side I think it's cool. The netflicks integration seems pretty cool tool.

All in all, still a pretty cool device with very limited competition ... but, with a 99 dollar price tag, I think Apple TV is really going to cross the market place chasm now ... just wait and see. But I don't think they needed to remove some of the cool stuff they had before ... they could have just improved what they had, instead of cleaning the slate so to speak.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Back on E85

So, I thought I'd post something new that WASN'T really related to what I do for professionally for work, but what I do for "fun". In this case, it's moving my Subaru back to E85 fuel for the race season. You know, E85 .... 85% moonshine and 15% normal 95 oct. (91 in the US) fuel -- which totals up to 109oct (105oct US). With Winter's long grip on Prague officially over, it's time to go E85 again for the following reasons:

1. It's 40% cheaper than normal 100oct. (96oct US) fuel ... which is about 8.50 USD per gallon now.
2. It produces 70% less emissions than standard petroleum based fuels.
3. With tuning***, I get another 10-15% horsepower and more engine safety.

Now, I don't run E85 in the winter, because I don't drive my Subaru STI much in the winter, and because it's extremly difficult to start the car on E85 when it's cold out. If you don't have an engine blanket, good luck getting it started (unless your car was built as a Flex-Fuel car, then the ECU (car computer) will know what to do).

However, it's warmed up a bit, so now no problemo. To run E85 in my Subaru I had to add a higher capacity fuel pump and larger fuel injectors. E85 requires that you spray 30-40% more fuel than standard gas when using it the way I am (1 to 1, ethanol doesn't have the power as standard gas, so you need more of it to product the same amount of energy). Using the opensource software RomRaider, I am able to tune and make changes to the car's ECU map so that it will run E85. In this case, playing with the fuel scaling and timing. Don't try this at home kiddies ... if you screw up, you'll blow your motor. ;-) Once done, ta-da! Add E85, update ECU map, and you're good to go!

Naturally, I just explained it "for dummies" as details might be just a bit too much for you if you're not familiar with ODBII ports, ECUFlash, MAF scaling, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, something new for you today, if you have any questions about what you need to do to get on E85, let me know, I'll be glad to consult ... now, back to real work I go (oh, wait, still looking for work myself :P) ...