Category Archives: insights


I had been playing with a fun stock market simulator/investing application on Facebook until yesterday. It was called kaching (now defunct). The authors decided to focus their efforts on their for-pay service,, and drop the free app on facebook.

That’s all well and good – folks making money does not bother me.

What does bother me is when the maintainers of the application say they are expressly not inviting the 60,000+ users to their new service. A reply I received to a post I made when I found out the app was being removed from one of their admins was incredibly unprofessional and rude. He said they weren’t inviting the facebook users because they were not likely to want to use it, and wouldn’t pay for it.

My request was for the app to be kept up, just have maintenance on it cease and no new features be added. Keeping the app alive would have cost them next to nothing. Removing it has alienated 60,000+ people who [almost] all complained, and have made comments like I am right now warning people away from their “premium” services.

I’m all for folks making money: that is, after all, how bills get paid. I’m all for having a closed platform – if that’s what you want to do (though open platforms seem to last longer and work better overall… but that’s an entire series of posts in its own right). But using 60,000 folks on facebook to effectively beta test your premium services, and then drop them just because you want to refocus, does not bode well for professionalism or future success. No, none of us paid to use the app. But an awful lot of us had a lot of fun playing with it.

Shame they’ve decided to upset 60,000 people in such a way. Even more of a shame is that they used 60,000 people as guinea pigs without telling us.

Active, free alternatives on facebook:


About 2 years ago, I wrote about the problem of holding onto electronic stuff just because storage was cheap.

It wasn’t until I met my fiancee that I realized I did the same thing with “real” stuff – holding onto it just because it was there.

I’m no where near a candidate for Hoarding: Buried Alive (praise the Lord!) .. but I could easily have been in a few years had I not met someone so helpful in keeping priorities about “stuff” straight – if it has a home and can live there relatively neatly.. it’s ok. Otherwise, it needs to be elsewhere.

Why is the self-storage industry doing so well in the US? Why do we own so much stuff we can’t even keep it in our homes? When did “stuff” become more important than people?

want to reduce gas consumption?

Buy better tires.

I referenced Seth Godin earlier today in regards to investment in developing countries.

Why is it, then, that a marketing blogger would talk about wanting to reduce fuel consumption? I think it’s because it’s easier to relate to than streamlining other processes you may have in your business or development cycles. It’s something we can relate to directly.

If we assume that all the cars drive the same number of miles, which would be a better investment:

  • Get new tires for all the Suburbans and increase their mileage a bit to 13 miles per gallon.
  • Replace all the Priuses and rewire them to get 100 miles per gallon (doubling their average!)

That’s right – spend a little bit of money on the Suburbans, and cut fuel usage more than you could by doubling the efficiency of the already-efficient Prius.

Why? It’s because we think in MPG rather than GPM. What does thinking in miles-per-gallon do to our brains that gallons-per-mile would make clearer? Well, here’s the math:

  • Let m be number of miles driven by a car…
  • Let s be the gas consumption (in gallons) for Suburbans (= m/10)
  • Let p be the gas consumption (in gallons) for Priuses (= m/50)
  • Let T be the total consumption (in gallons) (= s + p = m/10 + m/50 = 6m/50 = 0.12/m)

So in Scenario #1, we have T = m/13 + m/50 = 50m+13m/650 = 63m/650 = 0.097m

And in Scenario #2, we have T = m/10 + m/100 = 11m/100 = 0.11m

Scenario #1 reduced consumption by 0.12-0.097 = 0.023; Scenario #2 only by 0.01; Scenario #1 is 2.3x more efficient!

This is due to a power-curve relationship early on in the MPG table, where a minute improvement (1 MPG on 10) is a huge percentage improvement (10%) at the front end whereas later-on it’s minuscule.

I thought it was neat 🙂

Original article –

The math as to why it works – or

store brands are sometimes better

I shop at various grocery stores, and the cashiers generally look at my purchases a little askance: clementines, milk, ice cream, pot pies, beer, Ensure – they seem to get confused when I checkout with my selections.

I was raised with a thrifty mindset, but am not afraid to spend money for better quality.

For years I’ve preferred store brand cereals – corn flakes, raisin bran, cocoa puffs, cocoa crispies, rice crispies, and chex are all indistinguishable to me when comparing store brand and name brand. Some I can distinguish and just like the store brand more. Cheerios is the only notable difference – fake cheerios are NOT the same as the ones from General Mills.

Trader Joe’s raisin bran, for example, is cheaper than the name brand, has fewer calories, and (I think) tastes better than those from Post or Kellogg.

I don’t go out of my way to buy organic foods to make a statement. Many times I think they taste worse, or the relative percentage change in quality does not match the price percentage shift. Trader Joe’s raisin bran happens to be organic – but the fact that it tastes good and is inexpensive is more important.

I’ve been bitten several times by trying store brand macaroni and cheese. I picked-up a batch from Lowes Foods recently, and am hoping they’re not hideous like the ones from Winn Dixie were. But if they’re decent, then I have a source for less expensive than Kraft mac and cheese. My favorite is Prince brand, but those aren’t purchaseable in NC – and therefore I tend to stock-up periodically when I go home to NY.

Also, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the high quality of the canned strawberries I can get at my local dollar store. Yes. A dollar store. Most of the food they sell is high enough in sodium to make road ice quiver. But the canned strawberries at my local Dollar Tree near NC55 and NC54 are downright tasty – 90 calories per serving, with only three servings per can. That lines-up with my home-made applesauce for caloric value, and makes a nice shift.

They’re also not those supersized strawberries you find in most produce departments of grocery stores; the ones at Dollar Tree are about 1/2″ in diameter rather than 2″. The smaller size makes for what seems to be a more strawberryish strawberry than the giant ones from the supermarket.

Such experimenting has made me want to do more, and so now when I go shopping I try to compare not merely price or calories – but the taste quality. It leads to a lot of sampling, but being able to shave 10-50% off my grocery bill is a nice [eventual] payoff.

the best middle name. ever.

While I typically don’t repost, Seth Godin’s post was awesome.

The best middle name ever

It’s not Warren or Susan or Otis or Samuel or Tricia.

It’s “The.”

As in Attila The Hun or Alexander The Great or Zorba The Greek.

When your middle name is ‘The’, it means you’re it. The only one. The one that defines the category. I think that focus is a choice, and that the result of appropriate focus is you earn the middle name.

Jordan’s Furniture in Waltham was the place to go for that sort of thing. Bocce Pizza and the Anchor Bar were the places in Buffalo when I was growing up. Google is more appropriately called Google the search engine.

Seek the.

Of course, Winnie the Pooh is the exception that proves the rule.”

nucleation – the secret to maintaining a good head?

I had a Beck’s this evening with dinner.

The special Beck’s glass, like the Samuel Admas Perfect Pint Glass, has a small segment at the bottom that forces the dissolved CO2 to form bubbles, and yields a [near] constant head on the beer.

For those of you that saw the Mythbusters episode dealing with Mentos and Diet Coke, you’ll recall an extensive discussion on nucleation. According to the wikipedia article, “nucleation is the onset of a phase transition in a small region. The phase transition can be the formation of a bubble or of a crystal from a liquid.” Indeed, the SAPPG terms its laser-etched ring at the bottom a ‘nucleation site’. None of the other beer-specific glasses I have seen explicitly use this term.

Certainly, though, watching the bubbles constantly streaming upwards, at differing rates depending on local eddy conditions, is entertaining in itself. But the fact that it helps beers that otherwise appear quite flat to maintain their fizzy head.

I don’t know if it always makes a difference on taste, but it certainly does for Beck’s and Sam Adams.