Sunday, January 29, 2006
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Buying event tickets online has multiple points of frustration such as crazy high transaction fees. But others are just plain dumb. One of my biggest peeves is the lack of transparency around seat selection.
When I'm buying tickets for say, an A's game, I should be able to pick my seats from all available seats at that time. Instead after giving a quantity and price level I'm returned some magic selection of supposedly "best available" seats for that combination. Of course best available is a terribly impersonal algorithm that basically assumes closest to the field and doesn't take into account if there's somewhere in particular I like to sit or if i rather be three rows back with an aisle seat.
As far as i can tell, the only thing you'd need to do is prevent one or two seat combinations from splintering larger rows. i.e. you want to minimize the occurrence of one empty seat between two other groups since most folks look for 2, 3, or four seats together. This is easy though - if you're buying a single seat the chart will only open up selections that are contiguous to currently sold seats. No man is an island.
But because we have a near-monopoly situations for ticket sellers and venues I don't think anyone feels the need to innovate all that quickly for soft features like this suggestion. So what if we made it revenue generating?
Airlines already have exposed seat selection like i describe above, but what seats you see as available are dependent upon your fare and status. What if you did the same thing with Ticketmaster - held back a certain number of locations for those who registered, paid you a premium, whatever.
On the other hand, so many prime seats are already out aside for various reasons that it would be a shame to further degrade the opportunity for the average fan.
Several years later, it's clear that one of the most important and prescient decisions made was to hire an embedded reporter for SL - a blogger on Linden's payroll, but not under our control. The resulting product "New World Notes" not only provides an independent look at what makes SL tick but as a whole, provides an excellent overview of the world's creation. Expect the collected works to be published as a book one day.
Anyway, a recent NWN column made me smile - it recounts what happens when MTV comes a calling into the SL population without exactly knowing the rules of the world.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Saturday, January 21, 2006
TechCrunch, which if it was a print magazine would be something like InStyle + The Industry Standard, pronounced Ning dead and Gina took the time to respond. Stowe Boyd documents it all here.
First let me give Gina props for a thoughtful and mature response to a post which could have been flame worthy.
With regards to the larger question of whether Ning can grow to be a meaningful component of web publishing, it remains to be seen. I love any service that lowers the bar to user-created content and they are clearly moving in that direction.
The greater challenge is how do you monetize this energy in a manner consistent with your business. A "free for basic, $9.95 for premium" account structure? Ad supported where Ning takes a percentage of the revenue? Totally free to get to scale and then keep fingers crossed for an acquisition by someone who wants to build web publishing into their application empire?
One inherent challenge is in the nature of the apps they power, most of which have significant network effects. Different than say Blogger, where you can have 10 million blogs, most of which are read by just a few people, many of Ning's applications rely upon a critical mass of users to be successful. The Craigslist-clone, the Friendster-clone, etc are of no use if it's just you and three friends visiting the site.
At the end of the day it's likely that a handful of Ning-powered sites will be really successful, some more will be mildly successful, and the rest will be stagnant/abandoned. So Ning needs a business model that has to capture disproportionate revenue from the successes. But if Ning wants too much of the pie, that creates a tradeoff where all of a sudden their development platform isn't enough of a benefit to offset tithing 10% of your ad revenue back to Ning.
Gina's a smart cookie and all this was likely discussed at Ning long ago so I'm interested to see where they go in the coming months.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Monday, January 16, 2006
Uh, Will, Biggie or Tupac never played the opening of a Best Buy.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Amazon.com is in the information business, not the retail business. One big reason people shop at Amazon is because of its rich trove of information about products (prices, descriptions, specs, images, customer ratings and reviews). The next logical step is to take information directly from customers about what they want and fabricate it for them.
It may still be a few years (or even decades) too early for Amazon to offer a full range of such "fabbing" services, but there is no reason it cannot start modestly with a few fabbing experiments this year.
For relatively basic product categories where customization is key (like kitchen cabinet hardware or plastic toys), customers would go to a new "design" section of the Amazon site. There, using simplified, Web-based, 3-D design software, customers could create their own drawer pulls, cell phone cases or action figures based on their kids' favorite cartoon characters (available for an extra license fee, of course). Tight design parameters would ensure a basic floor of quality.
Then, all Amazon would need to do is set up some equipment like computer-controlled milling machines, 3-D printers, and other rapid prototyping tools (or better yet, farm out the actual fabbing to entrepreneurial machine shops and factories). Once customers get a taste of designing their own products, they will start to wonder why they need companies to do it for them.
Amazon could then add more categories, and create a design marketplace where customers, professional designers, and (yes) forward-thinking companies trade and sell designs, along with ratings and reviews for each design from other customers.
* after several years of "high def is here" pronouncements that were, well, several years too early, i'm now becoming a believer. The pricepoints are starting to become low enough to support an upgrade cycle. Additionally, I think the next generation of gaming consoles are going to drive HD purchases, perhaps even more so than sports and DVD titles.
* related to that, I saw ~10 minutes of prerendered PS3 footage and it was stunning. I know, purists will say "wait for actual gameplay," but what I saw was just beautiful. Doesn't mean the games will be great. In fact, likely means the first generation of games won't be good at all as teams burn their development time and budgets trying to play with all the pixels. But damn, there were some scenes that just made my gut throb, the right visceral reaction.
* the North Hall was all tricked out cars and automotive audio. Not my thing but a total scene. Definitely skewed towards booth babes, mullets and guys who looked like they wanted to kick my ass. However, I did get to watch two XM satellite radio jocks interview David Coverdale (Whitesnake) so my North Hall excursion wasn't all bad.