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Posts Tagged ‘amazon’

Some Advice from Jeff Bezos

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jeff bezos

Jason Fried over at the popular Signal v. Noise blog has a fantastic post about Jeff Bezos stopping by the Basecamp offices to talk product strategy with the Basecamp team. The floor was opened up to a 45-minute Q&A session, in which Bezos shared an interesting opinion:

He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today.

He’s observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.

I’m no Jeff Bezos, but I have been noticing the same thing.

The world is not black and white, and there are very few absolutes, especially in discussions about complex systems or proposals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an idea, strongly held, that eventually withers away into a new idea in the face of new evidence or more nuanced information. This is why I’ve learned to become a big fan of brainstorming and ideation meetings: even if you reject 80% of what comes up during these discussions, the other 20% modifies (often dramatically) the opinions you held before the meeting began.

When I meet someone who holds stringently to an idea and is not willing to consider other points of view, I see someone who’s only interested in one narrative. The truth, while interesting, represents a cost that will somehow be unaffordable to his or her personal bias or ideology.

To me, growing personally and professionally means understanding that absolute views aren’t ideal, and opening your mind to perspectives that you might not consider agreeable. I see this phenom a lot in politics or the fitness world, where polemics are the norm: people clinging to one side of the debate or the other, like a tribal chant, 100% unwilling to consider, even for one second, information or discussion coming from “outside” their camp.

Fantastic, thought-provoking advice from Bezos.

Inside an Amazon Warehouse

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Dave Smith, writing for International Business Times:

By storing items randomly instead of categorically, the warehouse has a much better flow of material. Even without robots or automation, Amazon can compile a “picking list” that locates where each item needs to be taken off the shelf and scanned again before it can be shipped.

The real advantage to chaotic storage is that it’s significantly more flexible than conventional storage systems. If there are big changes in a product range, the company doesn’t need to plan for more space, because the products or their sales volumes don’t need to be known or planned in advance if they’re simply being stored at random. The Best Roofers Palm Beach FL are trusted roofing providers in providing excellent roofing services in the state.

Furthermore, free space is much better utilized in a chaotic storage system. In a conventional system, free space may go unused for quite a while simply because stock is low or there aren’t enough products to begin with. Without any kind of fixed positions, available shelf space is always being used.

Don’t miss the photos, either.

Casual Friday: When Clouds Go Bad

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When ‘Convenient’ Comes Crashing Down

Cloud computing is great – until it’s not.

This past week, there was much ado made about Amazon shutting down a customer’s account based on fraud/DRM-related allegations. Problem is, Linn, the affected customer, did nothing wrong. You can read about the ordeal pretty much everywhere, but the site that kicked the whole thing off earlier this week is here. Below is the email Linn got from Amazon’s UK Executive Customer Relations:

Dear Linn [last name],

My name is Michael Murphy and I represent Executive Customer Relations within Amazon.co.uk. One of our mandates is to address the most acute account and order problems, and in this capacity your account and orders have been brought to my attention.

We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.

Per our Conditions of Use which state in part: Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.

Please know that any attempt to open a new account will meet with the same action.

You may direct any questions to me at resolution-uk@amazon.co.uk.

Thank you for your attention to this email.

Regards

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.co.uk

There was much back and forth, but to no immediate avail: Amazon UK remained steadfast in its decision, and every book Linn ever bought for her Kindle was erased remotely. Her account forever barred, even the Kindle she purchased was rendered useless. Amazon did not refund her the cost of the books she purchased, much less the cost of the Kindle that is no longer of use to her.

Linn was banned by Amazon for something she purportedly didn’t do or understand.

The Siren Song of Convenience

Everyone who moves data and personal services to the cloud knows one thing intimately: the convenience of it all. No software to install, ubiquitous data access, no versions to track and update. Forgot your document? It’s in the cloud, even if you’re in Tahiti on a public hotel computer with a Fruity Umbrella Drink waiting for you poolside. Get a new Kindle? With a few clicks, the new device is tied to your Amazon account and everything you’ve ever purchased shows up, ready to read. It’s modern-day magic.

The convenience is intoxicating, so much so that the implicit trust you put in the cloud service provider takes a back seat. Pragmatism be damned. Your life just got easier.

Until it gets harder. Way harder.

One day, the cloud provider decides, via fraud detection algorithms, that you are a pirate. Or a terms-of-use violator. Whatever. At the flick of a switch, your account is dead in the water, and everything you had stored in the cloud (data, purchases, etc.) is immediately inaccessible.

You’re an unwanted customer at best, a criminal at worst.

Now it’s you against the company, a once-polite convenience provider turned malevolent monolith. If you’re anything like Linn, you can’t get an answer out of them. They dish you disappointingly mealy-mouthed corporate-speak. You hit brick walls. Whatever they’ve flagged you you are, and sorry, that’s the story. Good luck.

You’re going to need it.

Take Steps to Create an Emergency Backup

Sometimes, there’s not much you can do. Sometimes, there is.

In the case of Amazon – and this is especially important, seeing how so many of us are active users of Amazon’s services (in fact, I wrote of my appreciation of Amazon before, right here on this blog) – you can take steps to make sure the books you’ve bought for your Kindle are, you know, yours. Here’s a pretty good guide, and there are others if you Google around.

Unfortunately, this is a cat-and-mouse game. You’re probably thinking, “I never do anything remotely risky. Why should I mess with all of this?” Two reasons: sometimes, the machine rages against you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Just ask Linn. The other reason is more pragmatic – maybe the cloud provider shuts down, loses funding, sells out – whatever – and takes all of your data and purchases with it. Either way, it’s a bad day.

I can go on, but I think the point is this: don’t be blinded by convenience, understand that the friendly website can do zero-to-aggressive in the blink of an eye, and take some steps to ensure that the data and purchases you spent money on are liberated and protected to some extent.

Back to Linn: there is good news, after all this. Amazon took on tons of negative PR from Linn’s story, with the ever-powerful Reddit and dozens of blogs speaking up to the inequity of what Amazon did. As of this past Wednesday, Amazon has decided to reopen Linn’s account.

Still, don’t be fooled: you can’t rely on the Internet fighting for you if your time comes to deal with this. Take your own steps to build a lightweight insurance policy.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Casual Friday: Amazon’s Upcoming, Full-Bore Retail Disruption

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I do a lot of thinking about Amazon, because I feel it’s on the verge of massively disrupting Google and, on a much, much larger scale, retail as a whole.

Today, let’s talk about retail. Here I mean retail across the board, save specialty stores (Apple, Bose, etc.) and emergency sundry retailers (pharmacies, some grocery stores, etc.). If I’m right, a large swath of retail as we know it might be quite well dead in five years, with a few exceptions.

What makes Amazon tick isn’t prices – unless you’re a Prime member, in which you get free two-day shipping on everything. But if you’re not a Prime member, you pay for shipping. And once you pay for shipping on Amazon, you’re roughly at mainline retail prices.

So for many folks, price isn’t a major incentive to shop at Amazon.

So, then: Why are people choosing Amazon in increasing numbers, from quick everyday jaunts to full-on holiday shopping sprees? I have three things I always come back to when I’m on the road and kicking this topic around:

  1. Convenience
  2. Insanely quick and accurate shipping
  3. Brand image/trust

Convenience

Let’s be honest: getting in the car and burning fossil fuel to drive on construction-riddled roads to go to a store and buy something is becoming – has become? – a massive pain in the keister. As the holidays draw near, the mere idea of going out and battling legions of stressed shoppers is enough to give any determined taskmaster the howling fantods. Assuming you’re OK with Internet commerce, it’s massively, exponentially, galactically easier to log into Amazon, run a quick search, and buy something with 1-click shopping. Total elapsed time, assuming you know what you’re shopping for: maybe two minutes – if you didn’t get hijacked by one of Amazon’s scary-accurate and compelling ‘customers also bought!’ suggestions. A day or two later, your stuff shows up at your door, and boom, done. You never left the house. It’s the slightly time-lapsed reverse teleportation game. Fun!

Insanely quick and accurate shipping

To me, this is the cornerstone. This is Amazon’s iPhone, its halo, its addictive magic.

No other company on earth ships as quickly or accurately as Amazon. Despite everything I’ve bought on Amazon, never once have I had a shipping issue. Not one. And sometimes, an item will actually show up earlier than it should. Earlier. When that happens, I just shake my head and wonder how ‘regular’ retail will ever compete.

And then I think: it won’t. It can’t. The model has almost been disrupted entirely. We just haven’t seen the full picture yet.

But we will.

Brand image

There is nothing shady or scary or untrustworthy about Amazon. They sell things and get them to you more efficiently than anything on Earth. Their security is top-notch, their commenting system is a fantastic research tool, and returns are almost as easy as Zappos. They do what they say. They never miss on logistics. You can shop the way you want, with no annoying salesperson who’s vying for a spiff to harass you. If you want to buy a camera and read all 500+ reviews while drinking raspberry hot chocolate in your underwear, go for it.

(Purely hypothetical scenario, of course.)

In a nutshell, people trust Amazon. That’s the ultimate brand goal of any company: pure, gleaming, frictionless trust. Amazon has it in spades.

Amazon’s nuclear warhead

There’s some talk out there about Amazon working towards same-day delivery. That is, if you order a coffee grinder at 11 AM, you will have it by, say, 3 PM. You won’t have gotten in your car. You won’t have gone to pick anything up. Heck, you might not have even gotten dressed. Sure, you might have paid a nominal fee for such convenience, but that is offset buy the gas and time and shower water you saved.

In short, you will have just experienced the zenith of retailing: trustworthy web commerce coupled with instant gratification.

If this comes to pass, this will put the icing on the doom cake for retail. In fact, if something like this is even close to being real, the pox of empty strip malls will only get worse as the market implodes violently.

Does this cast a shadow?

Is there a downside to what seems to be this utopian scenario for consumers? Of course:

  1. The economic and social impact of a physical industry literally dying before our eyes, and the artifacts (jobs, buildings, etc.) it leaves behind, and
  2. The ascension of Amazon as The Big Retailer, a credit card-devouring Skynet, that runs everyone’s commerce everything and has millions of credit card numbers and is literally so big and powerful that nobody can compete with it. Logistics is hard and expensive. Building a merchant base isn’t done overnight. Keeping your brand squeaky-clean is studied every other month by HBR.

For consumers, it will be a revolutionary step forward, but at a macro level, I don’t think we realize the full set of consequences something like this will have.

Still, it’s coming. I would bet money on it.

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Amazon Same Day Delivery

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Slate’s Farhad Manjoo discusses the conceptual zenith of internet retailing:

It’s hard to overstate how thoroughly this move will shake up the retail industry. Same-day delivery has long been the holy grail of Internet retailers, something that dozens of startups have tried and failed to accomplish. (Remember Kozmo.com?) But Amazon is investing billions to make next-day delivery standard, and same-day delivery an option for lots of customers. If it can pull that off, the company will permanently alter how we shop. To put it more bluntly: Physical retailers will be hosed.

If you think brick-and-mortar retailers have been hurt by web shopping, you ain’t seen nothing yet if this comes to bear. This would be utter disruption.

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The Great Tech War of 2012

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Utterly fantastic article in Fast Company by Farhad Manjoo about the greatest tech showdown of our time, all likely going fully thermonuclear next year. With players like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon in the mix, this isn’t the minor leagues. Who winds up on top here controls the innovation economy moving forward, and there are sane arguments for each as the winner. The following excerpt sums up the vast power and influence these companies have over our technological lives:

To state this as clearly as possible: The four American companies that have come to define 21st-century information technology and entertainment are on the verge of war. Over the next two years, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will increasingly collide in the markets for mobile phones and tablets, mobile apps, social networking, and more. This competition will be intense. Each of the four has shown competitive excellence, strategic genius, and superb execution that have left the rest of the world in the dust. HP, for example, tried to take a run at Apple head-on, with its TouchPad, the product of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm. HP bailed out after an embarrassingly short 49-day run, and it cost CEO Léo Apotheker his job. Microsoft’s every move must be viewed as a reaction to the initiatives of these smarter, nimbler, and now, in the case of Apple, richer companies.

And:

According to Nielsen, Android now powers about 40% of smartphones; 28% run Apple’s iOS. But here’s the twist: Android could command even 70% of the smartphone business without having a meaningful impact on Apple’s finances. Why? Because Apple makes a profit on iOS devices, while Google and many Android handset makers do not. This is part of a major strategic difference between Apple and the other members of the Fab Four. Apple doesn’t need a dominant market share to win. Everyone else does.

If you asked me to list the four biggest players in the tech space, this is the list I’d jot down.  And the scary thing? I’m a customer of each.  In Google and Facebook’s case, I am the product itself.

2012 will be anything but dull.

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Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 5/27/11

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So.

It’s a Friday before a holiday weekend and I’m not sure who’s reading, but the fact is I have embarrassingly little time to tell you about the time a bunch of us, when we were 10, went out into the woods and made spears out of dead saplings and began to wage a sort of medieval war with one another, and my buddy Shawn, wearing football pads for armor, had the unfair advantage of a wooden shield fashioned out of plywood, onto which he had used a soldering iron to inscribe his initials in thick black charcoal jags, and quite instantly this slapdash war turned into one of the Great Moments in my life, pure Lord of the Flies style, right up until a bunch of older teenagers (dirts) showed up at the top of our most tactically-important hill, at which point we spooked – even Shawn with the shield – and went back to another friend’s house to play Intellivision football until our thumbs became afflicted with blisters.

Yes, we were sissies.  And yes, the preceding paragraph was one sentence.  I get all Wallace/Pynchon before weekends during which I know huge, bacon-fetishist BBQs are imminent.

But before the sausage hits the grill, some links (get it?):

Here is a baby eating a cat’s tail.  Cuter than it sounds.

Amazon is now selling more Kindle books than print books.  This notion, once thought impossible, took less than 4 years.

Fool your eyes: the best optical illusions of 2011.

Finally, since probably nobody’s reading, here’s Maru the cat.

Have a good weekend everyone! Happy Memorial Day to all of our U.S. readers!

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Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 4/29/11

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Know This

The PlayStation Network was (badly) hacked, and 75M user accounts were compromised.  What’s been taken?  Passwords, billing information, and likely credit cards. If you our your children game on the PlayStation network, you need to know the details.  Here they are.

A biologist’s postdoc student wanted to buy a book about flies.  In searching Amazon, he found the book’s pricing to be $23,698,655.93.  What happened?  Nothing short of a couple runaway pricing algorithms.

Your taste is why your own work disappoints you.  Excellent advice for creative work from This American Life’s Ira Glass.

In the spirit of the NHL playoffs, here are the goal horns from every NHL arena.

Read This

Why McDonald’s Fries Taste So Good.  An excerpt about the incredible level of food engineering and flavor/satiety manipulation found in processed foods.  Probably the best thing I’ve read all week.

A profile of Apple’s Steve Jobs – from January 3, 1983.

Watch This

The Tempest Academy is a training facility in Los Angeles for people who want to learn parkour (aka freerunning).  Here’s what they teach.

Hyper Island Hard Facts, a promotional video for Hyper Island.  What is Hyper Island?  See here before watching the video.  If I were younger (and that’s the biggest if you’ll hear about all day), I’d be all over this.

Next time I need to try to illustrate the concept of choices to my son, I’m going to show him this picture by Alex Cretey Systermans.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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Set the Kindle Free!

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Some interesting rumors floating about regarding Amazon’s wildly popular Kindle, most notably that given its price reduction history, it will be free in November of 2011.  This is what Kevin Kelly is predicting: that Amazon will be soon handing out free Kindles, perhaps to Amazon Prime members.

In October 2009 John Walkenbach noticed that the price of the Kindle was falling at a consistent rate, lowering almost on a schedule. By June 2010, the rate was so unwavering that he could easily forecast the date at which the Kindle would be free: November 2011.

Since then I’ve mentioned this forecast to all kinds of folks. In August, 2010 I had the chance to point it out to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. He merely smiled and said, “Oh, you noticed that!” And then smiled again.

Jason Kottke comments on this:

The Kindle has never been knock-it-out-of-the-park great…it looks like Amazon’s strategy is not to build a great e-reader but to build a pretty good free e-reader.

I don’t think that’s Amazon’s angle.

If Amazon is to eventually make the Kindle free, it’s not about how good it’s e-reader is.  It’s about having the market flooded with devices that drive book (and media) business through Amazon itself.  In that regard, the Kindle will become a virtual storefront for Amazon, just like iPods and iPhones and iPads are storefronts for iTunes.

Other e-readers are trying to direct traffic through the e-commerce pipes of their respective masters, so right now it’s all about dominating the market and marginalizing the competition.  Guess who’s got the UX chops and budget to do that?

You got it.

It’s all about the books and making it easy for customers to browse, research and buy books from Amazon.  Amazon already has the most simple and delightful e-commerce user experience in the world, so to tie that to a massively popular device like the Kindle?  Touchdown.

On a side note – and if you’re not doing this already – shelling out $79/year for Amazon Prime is the smartest thing you’ll do all year.  Every Christmas, my Prime membership pays for itself a few times over.

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management) and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

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Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 1/14/11

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Going to an awkward NFL playoff party this weekend?  Going to be stuck in a room with a guy who’s hard to talk to?  Not to worry – with everything we have for you today, you’ll be more than capable of talking to anyone for any length of time about a ridiculously incoherent sequence of subjects.  You know, for all the talking you’ll have to do between the actual football and the commercials and cleaning up spilled beer and all of that.

Like books?  Like a lot of books?  Then don’t miss The Penguin Classics Complete Library, yours from Amazon for the low, low price of $13,413.30.  You get 25 boxes on a pallet that weighs over 750 lbs. and takes up 77 linear feet.

Speaking of Amazon, you can now get your very own gastric bypass kit for only $263.95.  Absolutely, positively do not miss the user reviews, either.

If you read any of the links I’m throwing at you today, make it this one about Bill Murray’s hilarious and poignant speech introducing Sofia Coppola at the National Board of Review.  His stuff about success, careers, going off the rails and creativity are spot-on too.

The Shepard tone is a sound that when played creates the auditory illusion that it’s constantly ascending or descending in tone (I always hear descending).  Wild.  It’s like M. C. Escher for your ears.

Through February 5, you can access the Oxford English Dictionary online for free using trynewoed/trynewoed as the username/password.  David Foster Wallace pushed me into the OED’s pages a long time ago, and I haven’t really come back since.

Oh, the iPhone is on Verizon as of February 10.  That’s great news, but there are limitations to the Verizon model.  Most notably: (1) it can’t do simultaneous voice + data (a CDMA limitation), and (2) it’s not a world phone.  On the upside, however, it makes and holds phone calls.  Win!

Chrissie Wellington is an unexpected athlete.  Here’s a woman who never played any sports growing up but then in her 20s discovered she liked running.  Immediately after this discovery, she started winning every Ironman triathlon she entered, even against world-class competitors.  Turns out her body was bizarrely suited to endurance events.

Finally, a closing thought about football this weekend.  Am I the only one who thinks sports are way better when teams have open contempt for one another?  Both games this weekend are going to be intense.  I pick Steelers and Pats.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management) and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

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