August 31, 2005

Not Always an Early Adopter

As someone who runs a technology startup company, I find that sometimes technology sucks, and it's better to avoid some snazzy technical solution and stick with something tried and true. If your time is precious, you go with what works and what takes the least amount of time.

For instance, for me, I cannot stand paying bills online. Often, the online solution requires Microsoft Internet Explorer, which I refuse to use. Or, it won't support any Macintosh browsers at all.

I don't want an online solution from the utility companies or employee benefits companies or financial services companies or other services that my company is a customer of. I want a bill to arrive in the mail. I'll sign a physical check, pop it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it. The paper-based system works for me, but if for some reason it breaks (very, very rarely in my experience), I have a nice paper trail and it's straightforward to resolve the problem. Some companies are trying to force you to use their online "solution", and make you go out of your way to request the "paper" way. At some point they're gonna cut off the paper way, and I will not be a happy camper.

I've found bill-paying user experiences for phone companies, banks, ISPs, etc., to be wildly uneven, sometimes very unreliable or slow, or they crash with Microsoft SQL Server errors spewing out on screen. These sites are generally a pain to deal with. My company's bank offers automated bill paying. In theory I could have it pay the rent, the phone bill, all the usual stuff. In theory it would save me a lot of time. No way am I gonna ever use it. I just don't want the hassle when it breaks, and I am not informed. I have a certainty that that would happen, and I'd be stuck.

Bottom line: on average, it takes me more time to deal with an automated solution day after day than it does a paper-based one.

I think part of my reluctance to go completely online with bill paying has to do with when you're running a startup, you need to be very aware of how much money you're spending. My system makes me extremely aware: I write all the checks, I put the stamps on the evelopes, I walk down to the mailbox and mail the payments. If I go online, it's all out of sight, out of mind, and there's no physical, tangible reality to the spending.

I vote for sticking to something tangible, a paper-based routine, with Excel spreadsheets and file folders to keep records. It works for me.

What works for you?

Posted by brian at 06:46 PM | Comments (2)

Kepler's Closes

Sad day in Menlo Park: Kepler's Books is going out of business. The news just came out today.

This is such a shame. We need independent bookstores, but they're dying away.

This is one reason I'm so determined to make sure that EVDB does a fantastic job indexing all bookstore- and author-related events. If more people knew about these types of events, more people would attend them, and, I believe, they'd buy more books there. It's a win for the author, the reader, the publisher, and the bookstore. And EVDB.

Posted by brian at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2005

Four Brothers, Zero Brains

Stupid, preposterous, psychopathic, violent, revenge film set in a cold, snowy Detroit. What's not to like? For starters, its stupidity. Its obviousness. Its preposterous plot. City streets devoid of other cars or pedestrians (couldn't afford extras for the chase scenes?) Cardboard characters. Stupid ghost cliches.

What a train wreck of a movie. It could've been a contender. If only it had had a decent script.

So far this year, the best movies have all been documentaries. About animals: parrots, penguins, and bears. If only someone would distribute the one on the fish!

Posted by brian at 12:42 PM | Comments (1)

August 25, 2005

Invasion of the Sharks

Hundreds of leopard sharks have returned to the coastal waters of La Jolla, here to feed on an abundance of anchovies. The news report says the sharks are "harmless to humans". Would that the reverse were true.
Posted by brian at 11:12 PM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2005

Another Great Year of Documentaries

Heck, it's been a great decade for documentaries, and I'm happy that so many are now becoming mainstream films. This year there are two very notable, and somehow strangely related, documentaries: Grizzly Man and March of the Penguins.

Both are recommended.

Grizzly Man tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, someone who loved bears too much. See the film. It is unsettling and disturbing and thought-provoking. I'm not going to say any more other than here's an interesting review of it.

Penguins is also excellent.

Now if only some American distributor would get their act together and distribute Darwin's Nighmare.

Posted by brian at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

Monty Python Day

Oh, to be in Scotland, in time for Monty Python Day. Sounds like a lot of fun for Grail fans.
Posted by brian at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2005

Time for BookBaby?

Matt Blumberg has an interesting post over at his OnlyOnce blog, entitled Why Publishing Will Never be The Same, Part 1, in which he recounts his experience using iUniverse to publish a book.

The part that struck me was that they paid iUniverse $1500 up front, plus iUniverse takes 80% of the revenue. Now, admittedly, iUniverse is printing, packing, and shipping the books, as well as getting them on Amazon and other online sites where buyers can find and order them. But still, iUniverse's take seems too much to me.

This got me thinking.

Perhaps it's time for BookBaby, in the spirit of CD Baby.

Unfortunately, the direct CD Baby model wouldn't be a sufficient replacement for iUniverse, as it's up to the artist to make their own CDs and ship them to CD Baby. CD Baby is more like a consignment shop for your self-made CDs.

I think a BookBaby service would have to go a lot further -- it'd have to print and bind the books as part of the service. This would add to the costs, for sure. But why not do at least a 50/50 split on revenue with the author?

I also think BookBaby would, like CD Baby, need to offer its own online retail service to sell its books, but the bulk of sales would no doubt come from the big dot-coms.

Scenario:

  • Write a book.
  • Lay it out using some nice software tool, save as PDF
  • Create cover art, save as PDF
  • Sign up for BookBaby
  • Upload your PDFs
  • You pay BookBaby some one-time fee for each title. ($100? $200?)
  • BookBaby validates your files, prints one review copy, sends it to you
  • You approve the review copy, tell BookBaby to submit to Amazon, BN, etc.
  • Any time you make a sale, you get 50% of the revenue and BookBaby gets 50% of the revenue.

    Would it work?

    Posted by brian at 09:50 AM | Comments (5)
  • August 09, 2005

    EVDB interview on ITConversations

    When I attended the recent Always On Innovation Summit at Stanford University, Scott Mace asked if I'd like to do a podcast interview with him, and talk about EVDB stuff. I said sure, of course! We went and found an unused room at the conference, Scott produced a microphone and his trusty Sony MiniDisc recorder, and we just started talking for 45 some-odd minutes.

    The result just got posted on IT Conversations today! Right now I'm on the top of the homepage of ITConversations! Cool!

    Posted by brian at 01:36 PM | Comments (1)

    August 04, 2005

    What and Where: Now on EVDB

    We pushed a major new release of software on the EVDB site tonight. We've split our search tool into two boxes, "What" and "Where". Here's our new homepage:

    Unlike, say, Google Local, we know about countries and states. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to search for, say, all U2 events in the state of California. Or all nanotechnology events in Canada. Why stop at the city or postal code? There's gold in them there states, provinces, and countries!

    This version of the "Where" search is just the tip of the iceberg. More coming. More info here.

    Posted by brian at 08:02 PM | Comments (1)

    August 03, 2005

    MacOS X Tiger Woes

    Glad to see I am not the only one frustrated and concerned about the quality of Tiger.

    From drunkenblog:

    I think most real users know, in our heart of hearts, that Mac OS X has been misfiring quite a bit lately, and that 10.4 was almost a total misfire in terms of actually using it. It doesn't mean we're going to switch, it doesn't mean we've given up, it just means we know something is wrong.

    My daily experience of Tiger involves, oh, let's see:

  • Waiting . . . lots of waiting for apps to un-busy themselves. Particularly Safari, which I've just about given up on.

  • Waiting . . . for Mail.app to, well, to do whatever it is that takes so long for it to do. It's incredibly slow compared to the Panther version.

  • Waiting . . . for apps to actually terminate after I've tried quitting them or even force quitting them. Did I mention Safari? Mail? Those are the two usual suspects.

    Tiger was supposed to be a Big Deal. For me it's been a Big Wait.

    Posted by brian at 09:35 AM | Comments (2)
  • August 02, 2005

    Top Search Terms: A Poem

    The top search terms, as reported by my web server log file analyzer. From #1 to #30, put to verse:

    Of shark, the bull
    drivecam in grief stages

    Terrrier seven, english google.

    Picture a QuickBooks Orkut wave,
    and turning dolphin jones.

    Kurt Stewart is 30.

    Infrastructure Jon
    to dog invitation.

    I don't know what it means, but it ought to drive the search engines crazy.

    Posted by brian at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)
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