Entries Tagged 'Life on the Net' ↓

Times review of bombshell book

The New York Times has given a surprisingly positive, and un-nuanced, review to the controversial book Freakonomics.

The new book is a rather meandering series of essays which attempt to apply the dismal science to everyday life in unusual (and nonmonetary) ways. Moreover, the book has been sent free to some bloggers (not me) to get the marketing buzz going.

Unfortunately, it is so controversial that at least one blogger has spent his time tearing down the book’s arguments.

Freaknomics claims that the legalization of abortion has 1) reduced unwanted children. 2) These children as they grow up commit a disproportionately high number of crimes. Therefore 3) legalized abortion is the main reason for the lower crime rate that started in the early 1990’s.

It analyzes other topics as well: cheating by Sumo wrestlers and Chicago school teachers, the prevalence of certain given names among different ethnic groups, and the appeal of crack dealing as a career among inner city youth. The topics seem certain to upset one group or another, even many different groups for different reasons.

My ability to summarize these arguments in a blog is lacking tonight. The topics and the conclusions reached are incendiary, and I prefer to stay out of the fire these discussions will ignite.

More on Amazon Prime

There are a lot more comments about this on the web than I ever realized. Many Amazon customers view the $79 annual fee as excessive, but others defend it including Omar who thinks of it as $6.58 a month, as he orders something from Amazon at least twelve times a year.

Yet, here’s a man who shops at Amazon, but paid nothing in shipping fees for a whole year. He bought three dozen items, too.

I think that the charges for shipping one book are high, especially on a percentage basis, about $4.00 if you buy one item. But if you add other items to get the Super Saver uber-$25 rate, you have both bought more stuff, maybe something you didn’t want or need, and you get slower shipping for it.

I run the numbers with a random hardcover book. At first, I save 30 percent, but I add on the shipping. Suddenly I’m saving only 12 percent. I can almost match that at my brick-and-mortar Barnes and Noble with their 10-percent-discount membership card, and I have it now.

The overwhelming advantage of Amazon over brick-and-mortar coompetitors is the incredible range of their offering in any department, and — doggoneit — their community.

Face it. Once you start reading the reviews, you can’t stop. (The best reviews are salty, like classic potato chips.) And frequently I decide I don’t want that brand-new bestseller anyway, after a few scorching 1-star comments.

But once you join Amazon Prime, you are no longer an independent customer, you become a member. Now you have that $79 fee to think about. Do you want to buy a title at Barnes and Noble’s site, where you have to pay more shipping? (This is in a Wall Street Journal article.)

So, in fact, the fee may not only cover Amazon’s costs, but be set high enough to make the average consumer move their shopping from lots of other places, whether online or off. One blogger notes they now buy their drugstore items online, using Amazon Prime, which is anecdotal evidence that the new program is working. (This is starting to sound like those online grocery-shopping schemes of last century, a creepy locked-room life.)

Google and web business

I just read an older article in Fortune magazine.

We all know about the growth of its stock with a lofty 65 (no! 95) PE ratio that make conservative investors blanch.

But what is stunning is that webmasters with a good idea, fresh content, serious traffic and a Google AdSense account have work-from-home businesses. Not stuffing envelopes or medical transcription or even clearing out their attics on eBay.

No, if you can get droves of people to visit your site, you don’t have to market the latest widgets. You sell Google ad clicks. AdSense places ads on your site for your visitors to see and click. And every month Google sends you a check for the use of your advertising medium.

OK, maybe a few hundred dollars , if you’re good?

No, try $5,000 a month for the clicks from visitors to mobiletracker.net, a popular site about cell phones. It gets about 200,000 visitors a month, as the owner updates a few items every day. From his parents’ livingroom by laptop.

The owner of the site is Jon Gales and he lives with his folks, because he’s only 19.

Or another site started by an engineer tired of cruddy airline seats. He designed the brilliant seatguru.com. Then he set up Google AdSense for of course, travel ads. (That’s a very cutthroat category, so there are lots of deep-pocket advertisers waiting for a busy site to showcase their ads.) He started the site as a hobby and now generates mucho traffic. Zap! Google AdSense made the site a $120,000 a year business.

Got a new idea for a website that will bring in the crowds? Watch your big traffic stats click you to a Google fortune.

Amazon Prime

Amazon earlier in the year began offering prepaid 2-day shipping for an annual fee. I was going to call it a low annual fee, but this is debated all over blogland. It’s $79 per year for up to four Amazon customers in the same household.

So the fee’s cheapness depends on how much you buy at Amzon in a year and how much you succumb to the get-it-instantly urge. For that fee, you would get free, 2-day shipping — now about $10 or even faster overnight shipping for $3.99.

Apparently, some Amazon people are making this seem affordable by buying household goods like toothpaste at Amazon, saying with zero added shipping, this makes good economic sense. (The toothpaste and other items I checked, had no “you save 32%” marked on them, so I’m guessing this may be comparable to a reasonably priced local store.)

For example, the big sellers in Health and Beauty are electric shavers, electric toothbrushes, and baby things. While the electronics are “Amazon priced,” the diapers and baby formula sometimes are reduced by 7% — not a big bargain. Still if you want to skip the hauling, maybe even that makes sense.

Investors and the cynical have questioned whether this is a rather desperate measure to gain sales. One shopper even noticed that things sittinng in his shopping cart to buy later have been creeping up in price. Maybe that’s how they make certain that Amazon is on the right side of the “free fast shipping” deal.

Apple TV hideout

See all the Apple commercials you may have missed. Lots of them are stored happily here.

See further comments at this blog (And be patient for those slow downloads.)

Joi in Blogland

One of most interesting high-tech well-travelled blogs is that written by Joi Ito.

He’s touring the world now: having left Japan; he’s just hit les blogs in Paris.

He praises Seth Godin and his latest book All Marketers Are Liars. The idea is that facts don’t sell products: the story behind the products sells them.

That’s true, for lots of products from things as inexpensive as cola to things as expensive as automobiles. (Consider the safety story of Volvo. It’s probably a well-engineered safe car, but the way Volvo has taken the high ground about safety makes the consumer think it’s the safest car — a very different thing.)

Another useful book by Godin is Free Prize Inside!: The Next Big Marketing Idea which stresses the power of small improvements to give a product a selling edge. Godin calls this “soft innovation.”

PR 11,589

Here’s a site about the olden days of Google when it was first introduced, and eerybody was using Altavista or HotBot as their search engine of choice.

It has a link to the Stanford research paper done by the founders of Google on how their search engine would work. Back in those days (1998), you couldn’t submit to Google: it would find you eventually by crawling the web.

The highest Page Ranks were amazing. No zero to ten. No, this went all the way to 11,589. That was the ranking of the Netscape Download page. Second was 10,717.70 for www.w3.org. (The average webpage was assigned the value of one.)

“My category is browser downloads and I want to outrank just one other site …”

Babe Ruth baseball

If you like collecting, and the thrill of the hunt, try searching eBay for sports memorabilia.

I want to say up front most of the items on eBay are genuine, and most of the big-buck memorabilia there are authentic as well. The few others do make things interesting, though.

For real excitement, start looking for Babe Ruth autographed baseballs. You will find three kinds of these on eBay: real, fake and you’ve got to be kidding.

By the way, as a benchmark, here is a genuine Babe Ruth signature cut from a letter.

Sometimes the real and the fake can be confused. One guy had a ball for sale that was obviously old. (Sometimes I think the perfect BR ball is brand new, yet is signed by a man who passed away in 1948. This is a tough item to find, but somewhat easier on the internet than in the real world.) The signature looked good in dark fountain pen, but the ball did not look like the typical 30’s Babe item. I refused to buy it, at quite a low price. That was a big mistake on my part. The nervous owner, nervous because it looked different, had the ball authenticated. It is an early WWI era (1914-1919) Babe Ruth signed ball, and the value corresponded to its rarity: $12,000. (I had taken a wild guess and gotten that value right.)

There was a nice fake ball, too that I have no image of. It was boldly signed in black pen. Unfortunately, that pen was a Magic Marker ™ which did not exist while the Great Bambino was signing. This auction was cancelled by eBay. Phooey.

I have a classic example of the collectible you’ve-got-to-be-kidding
Babe Ruth autographed baseball. Incredibly, this item was described as an authentic Ruth ball signed in pencil. Why the Sultan of Swat would sign in pencil I have no idea. No fountain pen handy?

But anyone can guess why an amateur forger would do this: you can re-sign, redraw every darn letter till you get it right.

Unfortunately, after I pointed out the item to eBay officials, they stopped the auction. I still think it would make a great gag gift. Like that 1972 fruitcake that keeps being regifted, it could be the Christmas gift that wouldn’t die.