Thursday, July 28, 2005

Selling Razors, Selling Blades

Interesting observation at the Daring Fireball website:
Apple has flipped the old Gillette maxim — they’re making money selling the razors (iPods), not the blades. There’s definitely a huge potential upside — big, big bucks — if the ITMS [DTD: iTune Music Store] continues growing at the current rate for a few more years. And it’s hard to imagine that anything even remotely resembling any of the current iPods will still be a high-profit-margin product 10 years from now. But at the moment, Apple’s music revenue and profits are coming from multi-hundred-dollar iPods, not 99-cent songs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

David Cowan's Accidental Philanthropy

David started blogging last week. Prolific and witty, he combines insights on data security issues with personal musings about life in general.

I felt compelled to comment on his latest post Accidental Philanthropy.
This weekend I was a guest golfer at the prestigious Menlo Country Club in Woodside. It was a glorious day, with no one else in sight on this magnificently tended course (though I suspect that's because word had gotten around that a Jew was on premises).
(read David's entire post)

Here is a copy of the comment I posted on David's blog:
At 6:20 AM, Daniel Dreymann said... After the “I suspect that's because word had gotten around that a Jew was on premises” prolog, I was kind of hoping your money would go to AIPAC (much better than the ADL).

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State would have been a great choice as well (I’ll send them a check after my IPO :-) though you do fall in the trap Sharansky calls the west’s “lack of moral clarity” in his latest book The Case for Democracy: “It is why people living in free societies cannot distinguish between religious fundamentalists in democratic states and religious terrorists in fundamentalist states”.

One should also not confound bullshit and convictions. Prof. Frankfurt in On Bullshit writes about a Fourth of July orator, who goes on bombastically about "our great and blessed country, whose Founding-Fathers under divine guidance created a new beginning for mankind." This is not about promoting religion, it’s simply bullshit. As Frankfurt writes: “The orator does not really care what his audience thinks about the Founding Fathers, or about the role of the deity in the US history, What he cares about is what people think of him. He wants them to think of him as a patriot, as someone who has deep thoughts and feelings about the origins and the mission of our country, who appreciates the importance of religion, who is sensitive to the greatness of our history, whose pride in that history is combined with humility before God, and so on.”

And to end this too-long-already comment: I am amazed you, as a scientist, would support The Sierra Club, master users of junk science, brainwashers of innocent 5 year old kids…

Friday, July 15, 2005

Taxing Email "for the Children"

One of the email service providers I met at the Email Authentication Summit in New York, expressed strong negative feelings about the recent laws attempting to protect children from inappropriate email passed in Utah and Michigan.

Well, he is not alone...

Silverpop's CEO, Bill Nussey, wrote a good piece on this subject:
While I applaud the effort to protect children, there's a problem. These laws, designed by people who don't understand direct marketing, risk creating massive headaches for legitimate marketers. Ironically, the laws will be completely ignored by the bad emailers they seek to block. And, if other states decide to follow suit, the costs and efforts of legitimate, permission email marketing could go up, maybe a lot.

Let's look at how these laws work. While it would be easy if states just shared the "do-not-email" (DNE) list with marketers, the risk of these lists being abused by criminal spammers is just too high. Therefore, the states are requiring that marketers UPLOAD their house lists to state-run systems, which will then check the lists and send back the names that should be removed. Marketers will need to check their house lists against the states' DNE list at least every 30 days. The states will charge between $7 and $30 CPM for EACH NAME SUBMITTED for scrubbing.

This sounds simple enough. What could go wrong? A lot.

For instance, if you market automobiles to a list of 1 million names, and don't have reliable data on home state, you could be paying $120,000 per year (12 scrubs of 1MM names at $10 CPM) just to avoid breaking the laws in those states. If another 10 states adopt similar laws, email marketers could face over $1 per name per year just to scrub a tiny handful of children from their lists. At the very least, these states need a more realistic price for this service.
Furthermore, these laws allow for a private right-of-action. This means citizens can sue any sender they believe violated the law. The result could be that spam is no longer the most lucrative way to abuse email. All the email bad guys will move to Michigan and add their children's email to the registries. Then, they will opt-in their kids for every car, porn, beer, tobacco and gun newsletter they can find. On day 31, they'll start suing every poor marketer who hasn't been paying their hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in scrubbing fees. All of sudden, making $250,000 a year pumping out Viagra ads looks like small change to the millions in settlements you can collect from the legitimate marketers of disallowed products.

The economics are indeed interesting. Ed Felten at Princeton sees it simply as a tax - Michigan Email Registry as a Tax on Bulk Emailers:
The main effect of the fee is to turn the whole program into a tax on bulk emailing. The tax operates even if only a few kids’ addresses are registered, so parents worried about leaking their kids’ addresses can safely decline to register them. So let’s look at this as a tax scheme rather than a child protection program.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's Not About the Haves and Have-Nots

Do the youngsters on top of this plain minivan look like they are showing off their wealth?

Yet, this is exactly the picture the New York Times chose to illustrate journalist Sarah Boxer's dumb thesis on the We're Not Afraid website:
But more and more, there's a brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure. Yesterday there were lots of pictures posted of smiling families at the beach and of people showing off their cars and vans. A picture from Italy shows a white sports car and comes with the caption: "Afraid? Why should we be afraid?" ... We're Not Afraid, set up to show solidarity with London, seems to be turning into a place where the haves of the world can show that they're not afraid of the have-nots.
This is not a war between the West's "haves" and the "have-nots" of Africa and Latin America. This is a war between Freedom and those who hate it. I'd recommend Boxer read The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror by Natan Sharansky.

Blue is Cold, Red is Hot

Isn't it amusing that "cool" and "hot" are both positive adjectives for something trendy or fashionable? You can use the words in their most literal sense here:

Look at Inhabitat.com or MoCo Loco for more pictures.

Hansacanyon's temperature sensitive backlighting uses LEDs that change color as a function of water temperature so you can see when it's hot or cold.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Don't Run, it's a Bomb!

Edward Kaplan of the Yale University School of Management, and Moshe Kress of the Naval Postgraduate School reached counterintuative conclusions in a new study about suicide bombers as reported by the Wall Street Journal (free):
If, for example, a suicide bomber walked into a crowded plaza, "standoff" bomb detectors might well pick up an unambiguous signal. A terahertz imaging system could spy the telltale wires and explosives in 30 milliseconds, and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy now in development could sniff out the trace vapors emitted by the ethylene glycol dinitrate in the plastique. Let's say the sensors alerted a security guard, who spotted the terrorist and yelled to the crowd, "Run, it's a bomb!"

In this scenario, the explosives-detection technology worked perfectly. An alarm sounded before a detonation. People were able to run or throw themselves to the ground. But when the bomber exploded, the casualty toll might not have been any less than if the sensors weren't deployed. Even worse, in some situations the intervention -- "Run!" or "Get down!" -- could lead to more casualties
A large, dense crowd puts more people in harm's way, but "the probability of being exposed to a bomb fragment declines exponentially with the size of the crowd." As a crowd flees, there are fewer people near the bomber to absorb the fragments (as when a soldier falls on a grenade) and more people, unshielded, farther away. Simple geometry shows that you can hit more people at a radius 20 feet from a bomber than you can five feet from him.

"If the first ring of unshielded people is at a greater radius, there are more of them, and more will be hit," says Prof. Kaplan.

The same effect occurs if people throw themselves to the ground. That minimizes each person's exposed area, but also at the expense of decreasing human shielding. For bombs with 500 or more fragments (in Israel, 1,000 is typical), "hit the deck" can raise rather than cut casualties. If scores of people fall from an average height of five feet eight inches to 1.5 feet, the scientists calculate, casualties could rise as high as 50 from 37.
Kaplan and Kress published their paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Do We Really Need Porn in 3-D?

That's the question the New York Times asks and seems to answer positively:
Do we really need porn in 3-D? Will "Casablanca" be a better film when we can reach out and touch Ingrid Bergman? Will sitcoms be funnier and dramas more engrossing when writers create stories that move not only up/down and right/left but also in/out?
Forget my provocative title, read Michael Krantz' Television That Leaps Off the Screen, cool technology!