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Archive for February, 2005

Star Wars Kid in Tony Hawk

Sunday, February 27th, 2005

All of the recent publicity about the Numa Numa dancer (including a recent article in the New York Times) has drudged up memories of the infamous Star Wars Kid.

That’s all fine and good and other people can debate the impact that the Internet is having on “fame”, “talent”, and “privacy”. I want spend a single moment decrying the lame attempt to commercialize the grassroots “fame” of the Star Wars Kid: apparently, the new Tony Hawk game has a Star Wars Kid easter egg. Check out the video on the Waxy blog.

My beef? It’s poorly done. In theory, it could have worked, but it’s too late and poorly done. Shame on the Tony Hawk team. The Star Wars Kid deserves better.


Diversify life so that everyone is better off?

Friday, February 11th, 2005

In the stock market, you can prove, mathematically, that you are always better off diversifying your portfolio of stocks than picking one: you can earn the same return with much lower risk (to optimize, you pick stocks that have as little correlation as possible).

Could the same thing work in life? That is, I THINK that I want to be an entrepreneur after I graduate. Of course, though, there are real risks: I could earn a comfortable living working for someone else as part of a large corporation. The entrepreneur lifestyle choice is potentially one of high risk and high reward.

Let’s say I have a friend who is very happy working for someone else and earning a comfortable living, but he/she has a little bit of risk tolerance and likes the idea of a gamble, to some extent.

Wouldn’t we both be better off if we teamed up? We could agree to split our salaries forever, for richer or poorer, ’til death do us part. We would both share in the gains and losses of the other. If I fall on my face, (s)he carries me a bit. If I start a company that is wildly successful, (s)he shares in the rewards.

Would you do it? With whom? What are the implications to capitalism? Government?


Good Idea, Poorly Executed

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Last week I came across Amazon’s A9’s Yellow Pages. They recently launched a new feature: when you search the yellow pages for a business, you get the address and phone number, as well as a picture of the store front. The idea is very cool: if I’m going to a business I’ve never been to, a photograph of the front of the store would be very useful. You can even pan the pictures to “walk” up and down the block.

Which got me thinking, Mapquest should do the same thing with turn-by-turn directions: photographs of landmarks and turns would be incredibly helpful.

And, in some cases, it works quite well. Check out the Deluxe Bar and Grille, near where I used to live in Seattle…

Apparently, A9 did this by driving around major cities with a GPS system and video camera. Then, in automated fashion, they pulled stills out of the video based on GPS location, which they matched to addresses. They’re really quite proud–they have even posted a page “explaining” how they did it (it’s light on details and heavy on marketing).

The implementation is pretty poor, though. I had to search long and hard before I found the good example I cited above. Here are what I tried first:

In general, I found this to miss much more often than it hit (though they do get credit for nailing Taqueria Cancun in the Mission). I wonder if they tested this feature before releasing it. If they did, I wonder what their acceptable quality bar was.

Granted, it’s a hard problem. What happens when Deluxe moves out and Joel’s Bar and Grille moves in? I’m guessing that the address is the primary key for the picture (as opposed to the name of the business), so when you look up Joel’s Bar and Grille, you’ll see a picture of the Deluxe. Unless they plan on updating the entire set of pictures every few months, which is probably too expensive…

Technology is difficult to get right and I certainly forgive companies for giving it their “best shot” in the first version (after all, I worked at Microsoft). Until it catches up, just take my word for it that there’s a great Cuban restaurant behind that truck in Manhattan.