Amazon’s A9 BlockView Search Discontinued

October 18, 2006

I am working on a web service mash-up, and I wanted to integrate with Amazon’s BlockView technology (part of the A9 Yellow Pages). BlockView allows you to type in a business address and see a picture of the actual storefront. Well it turns out at the end of September Amazon scrapped BlockView along with all their Yellow Pages. Doh! Interestingly enough, the CEO of A9 was snatched up by Google. I think BlockView would compliment Google’s other local search and mapping initiatives whereas it was an odd thing for Amazon to put such effort into.

The Woes of a Maximizer

October 18, 2006

I have been reading The Paradox of Choice lately, among other things. The author contrasts two types of people, “satisfiers” and “maximizers.” The maximizer description fit me very well (not surprisingly). Unfortunately the author makes a pretty good case why this is a bad way to be. One behaviorism of a maximizer is to labor over and prolong decisions, such as purchases, because you must consider ALL options/information. Then, once the decision is made, you are bummed when you look for and find new information that would have lead to another decision. Though I agree with the author that this extreme should be avoided, I have a hard time buying into his extreme “satisficing.”

Talent is scarce

October 16, 2006

I was reading last week’s Economist today. There is a special feature on “the search for talent.” The articles touched on a lot of related issues, but the main idea was that increasingly new jobs require truly talented people and that there is a real shortage of such people. These people often have little loyalty to their employer, so even once an employer finds such a person, it is a continual challenge to make sure that talent is not lured away by another company. I felt that related to my experience. One article has a quote from Bill Gates saying that “if it weren’t for 20 key people, Microsoft wouldn’t be the company it is today.” Better yet a vice-president of Google says a top-notch engineer is worth “300 times more or more than the average.” Wow!

A Good Work Environment

October 4, 2006

Working At Home Being comfortable is important. It can mean that your attention wanders less. Of course, it can mean that you fall asleep too, but you can solve that one yourself. When I am reading on the computer, I prefer to use the laptop and find some place comfortable. With WiFi of course this is entirely possible. Sometimes I have projects running on my more powerful desktop while I am using the laptop. Rather than get up, I can use VNC to remotely interact with my desktop (for example, to change the volume on my surround-sound system). In all seriousness, a flexible and pleasant work environment helps me be more productive (and happier and more inspired and …).

Startup Business Myths

October 4, 2006

Ron has posted on his blog, Rondam Ramblings, a great list of business myths that are important to remember when undertaking a startup. My favorites are:

  • A brilliant idea will make you rich.
  • If you build it they will come.
  • What you think matters.
  • What you know matters more than who you know.

Entrepreneurs are Fools?

October 2, 2006

There was a very interesting article in BusinessWeek (way back in Feb, 2005) that I just stumbled upon. Researchers found that entrepreneurs take risks not because they have more tolerance for risk (they might even, on average, have less), but because they are overly confident in their ability to succeed.

My First Month of Self-employment

October 2, 2006

September is over and so is my first month of self-employment. It was a month of transition. I returned from three months of traveling (Europe and China), spent a week in Boston, settled back into my apartment, and then moved at the end of the month to a new apartment. Needless to say there have been a lot of distractions. Nevertheless, by the numbers I did well. Through consulting work I made 85% of my previous salary while working about 1/3 the number of hours. Just as all investments ads warn that “past performance is not a guarantee of future results,” I too must warn that almost all revenue came through a single job. Although I expect to do many more hours on the job, one of my goals for the next month is to diversify (multiply really) my sources of revenue.

Business Cards

September 29, 2006

I just got my business cards today. I ordered them from www.VistaPrint.com. They came out exceptionally well! VistaPrint allows you to design and preview your cards online. They provide a variety of templates and graphics, plus you can upload your own. I got 250 cards plus a metal case for about $45 after using a coupon. Coupon? Before I buy anything online, I always google for a coupon. Low and behold I found one and saved about $20.

MeeboMe

September 28, 2006

I have a success story that I want to share. I use a service called MeeboMe that allows prospective clients to chat (instant message) with me from my website. I have found this works well— people who might not have taken the time to e-mail me seem to prefer this medium. I like it too. Why? Quick resolutions. They tell me their needs, I ask for whatever information they left out, they shoot back answers, and I tell them if I can help them or not. With instant messaging, there is no waiting around for replies. Every time customers have to wait for a reply, the chance that they will lose interest in the effort increases. MeeboMe can be inserted, free of charge, into any website with just a few lines of code and is rendered as chat box widget. As long as you are online, messages are routed to your Meebo instant-messaging account. Meebo itself is a cool service because it allows you to instant message from multiple accounts/providers from a single web-based interface. From any computer you can log into all your accounts and see your contacts in a single buddy list.

The catch of course is that you need to be at your computer and able to respond quickly to questions, but since my job is to sit at the computer, that is hardly a problem. The other night (late) three prospective customers messaged me all within the same hour! I don’t think they would have bothered to contact me if the chat box wasn’t right there on the front page of my website.

Netvibes.com – Best Blog Reader

September 14, 2006

Two weeks ago I was searching for a good online blog reader. Most that I tried loaded individual entries too slowly (bad for quickly scanning) or did not allow you to organize your feeds well. Then I tried netvibes.com. Seriously, click the link now and try it out (it’s easy). It surpassed all my expectations. Now regardless of what computer I am on, I open up netvibes.com and can track all my favorite blogs, gmail, weather, etc. However, new Yahoo Mail (beta) has an innovative rss reader and could be a good alternative for some users.