Showing posts with label Convenience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Convenience. Show all posts

March 7, 2019

Clip-Clip

So recently I started cutting my own hair. 

Uh, yes!

Not sure what made me actually do this...

But it just seemed like I was wasting money at the Hair Cuttery on something that I could do myself. 

Also, I remember fondly how my dad used to cut his own hair for decades.

So I gave it a try--that's not me in the picture!

I purchased a simple Wahl clipper and went at it.  

First a little tentatively and then more boldly as I got the hang of it. 

The best part of the clipper is the color-coded guide combs so I don't completely screw this up. 

What I also like is that ability to give myself a little trim whenever I want. 

Don't have to wait to get to the barber or to wait on line there. 

So far so good, thank G-d--no big hair disasters.  

And frankly, I look a lot happier than the guy in this photo. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

May 26, 2018

Amazon's Dangerous Genius

I am marveling at the Genius of Amazon and Jeff Bezos but also concerned about their future direction. 

Traditionally, they have invested for the long-haul!

For years, Amazon never made a dime, actually operating at a loss.

But all the time making long-term investments in infrastructure (warehouses, supply chain, logistics, etc.) and in customer acquisition. 

Their great selection, reasonable pricing, free shipping, and easy return policy lured hundreds of millions of people to drop the brick-and-mortar stores and even other online retailers to go Amazon all the way. 

Most people I know get virtually everything and anything on Amazon these days. 

Of course, the fear always was that Amazon would become such a dominant player and monopoly that no one else could compete. 

For a long time, they didn't even charge sales tax!

It seems people can't even imagine not having Amazon--where in the world would they shop and get all their stuff in 2-days or less (Prime Customers) and still be able to return all the crap they don't even want. 

So here is the rub.

Now that Amazon is so dominant, guess what?  They are raising the Prime Rates and cutting back on returns--with customers actually being banned for returning too much. 

Ah, the lure, bait and switch. 

Amazon got us all as their slave customers--and we let them and love them for it. 

And after they snared us with all the convenience and security of being able to return stuff, they pull the rug and what can you do, but cry foul?

I love Amazon for their genius and what they have done for eCommerce, but I don't like that they've built in a sense a dark empire to prey on their loyal customer base. 

Mr. Bezos, here is my message to you...

Please stay true to your ideals of customer-centricity and long-term investment in the company that has been the foundation for what you have built into such a retail juggernaut.  

Keep valuing your customers and serving them well and not trading them in for short-term profit gain.

In the end, that is a winning strategy that won't land you in either regulatory hell and/or antitrust action to then force you to bend your knee or your ultimate breakup. 

Remember, you have one chance to make the right decision for Amazon or I fear that it's not product returns that you'll be for long worrying about. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

May 14, 2016

Answer Your Watch

So I did it and took the plunge into a smartwatch. 

For over a year, I thought the technology just wasn't there yet. 

Too clumsy, too difficult to use with such a small device. 

First, I considered just a Fitbit for tracking activity, but I quickly ruled it out, since you can get so much more with a full smartwatch.

Then, I looked into the Pebble, in particular the latest model the Time Steel, which runs between $200-$250. 

But I watched a review that pointed out the the Pebble does not have a touch screen, and everything are the buttons--okay, I immediately ruled that out. 

Next, I looked to old trusty, Apple...they have never failed me yet, and I tried on their various smartwatches. 

I settled on a simple sports model, since I figured as the technology continues to evolve or as the watch gets beat up in daily use, I could simply upgrade to the next great thing. 

Also, I figured if I really don't like how it works, it wouldn't be such a great loss monetarily. 

Well, the verdict is in--I really like it!

Easy to set up by simply syncing with the iPhone. 

And then all your major apps just show up on the colorful apps panel. 

In no time, I was checking the 10-day weather forecast, reading news headlines, tracking my activity, using the GPS locator, looking up calendar events, checking email and replying with easy voice dictation, sending text messages, and even calling family and talking to them into the watch!

I even started the music on my iPhone from another room by using the smartwatch. 

Oh yeah, I almost forget, it tells the time too!

Except for taking photos, which would be really cool with the watch, but it doesn't do--it did most of the basics that I wanted it to. 

For not a lot of money, I felt that I was getting a lot of convenient functionality, and I am now encouraging my wife and kids to get it too. 

Apple, you still got it--so even though Google surpassed you in market value this week, I am still hopeful that you got some decent mojo left in you. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

April 12, 2016

Turn, Press, Pull -- Gonna Get Ya

So as I go around town, I see more and more of these industrial-type control panels. 

The problem is that they are stupidly in the open and unprotected or otherwise easily defeated.  

While probably not a serious threat of any sort, this one apparently is a unit to control some fans in an underground garage open to the public. 

You see the knobs you can just turn.

And one with a yellow warning sticker above it.

As if that will keep someone with bad intentions from messing with it. 

You also see the red and yellow lights...hey. let's see if we can make those flash on, off, on.

Panel 13, nicely numbered for us--let's look for 1 to 12 and maybe 14+.

It just continues to amaze me that in the age of 9/11 and all the terrorism (and crime) out there that many people still seem so lackadaisical when it comes to basic security. 

Anyone in the habit of leaving doors and gates open, windows unlocked, grounds unmonitored, computers and smart phones without password protection, data unencrypted and not backed up, even borders relatively wide open, and so on. 

Of course, we love our freedom and conveniences.

We want to forget bad experiences.

Could we be too trusting at times?

Maybe we don't even believe anymore that the threats out there are impactful or real.

But for our adversaries it could just be as simple as finding the right open "opportunity" and that's our bad. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

March 28, 2016

Hoverboard Dog Walking

This was a humorous site.

The guy has his dog on a leash and is "walking his dog," but he himself is not walking.

He's on his hoverboard and the dog is pulling him down the block and across the street. 

Apparently dogs need exercise, but people need convenience. 

Mankind is always trying to control his environment with technology, gadgets, and science.

So is this what "dominion over the earth" looks like in short? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

March 14, 2015

Moving And Emotional

So we are supposed to be moving in a few weeks, G-d willing. 

Not going far, but after 15 years in the same home, it's time. 

We found a place that we like and could agree on...following primarily the rule of thumb on location, location, location.

Lot's of places to shop, eat, workout, play, and pray. 

And close to public transportation...and of course, good 'ol work--his and hers.

As we're preparing for the move, there seems like a million things to do to get ready, but the hardest is figuring out what to take and what to leave. 

My friend told me to throw out half, and then come back and throw out the other half. 

You know what, a little extreme, but not a bad idea. 

So as I am going through things I bought or saved over the years, I am left scratching my head at what was I thinking for many of them, and for many of the memorable items that I can't believe any of this really happened. 

It's emotional looking back, and it's emotional looking forward--just different emotions.

Back--yes, where did the years go and with that regret for mistakes made, but also joy at things accomplished, lives touched, and beautiful memories made with people I really love. 

Forward--Oy, am I getting older (well, still middle age but...), there is excitement for what comes next, also some anxiety there--I hope all goes well, please G-d--and then there is the acknowledgement that it's not forever, and I better make the most of every moment of every day. 

My father used to tell me, when you are with those you love, you can live in a tee-pee and be happy...and I believe he was absolutely right. 

Moving to my next tee-pee with those precious to me...I don't care so much where, but just that we are together and happy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

February 20, 2015

Learning To Compromise

My wife and I decided after living in the same condo for the last 15 years that maybe it was time for a change. 

There is a great area that we hang out in with workout, grocery, pharmacy, public transportation, and--most importantly to my wife--Starbucks--all right there.

So my wife made an appointment for us to look at this rental right above all the action....

The apartment was nice, modern, and best of all in this vibrant neighborhood--but on the smallish side (we would definitely be cramped) and with a substantial monthly. 

My wife, the perennial city dweller, loved it, and I didn't.

Next, my turn up, we went with a real estate broker to see a charm of a house--this was the one we'd "been waiting for," all these years. 

Solid, roomy, castle-like...but it would have some ongoing house maintenance things and was a little distance from public transportation (i.e. we'd mostly have to drive). 

This time, my wife hated it, and I loved it.

Back and forth--argue and debate--getting no where (this is a very egalitarian relationship--my wife tells me what to do!) :-)

Thinking about this, I say "Okay, let's compromise"--let's look for a more upscale and roomy condo that we can make our own but in the neighborhood she really likes (and yeah, I like it too). 

1-2-3, with a little searching, we find something online we like, and back to the real estate broker to make an appointment. 

This story is not over in terms of where (or if) we are going to move to, but along the way we continue to learn as a couple to get along, love each other, and of course, compromise. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 6, 2014

10 Reasons To Love Traders Joe's and 2 To Not

There are many reasons to love Trader Joe's, but here's my top 10 (can you tell I just came from there?):

1) Pretty much you can depend that their food is good and fresh, and a lot of it is readymade and "convenient". 

2) Prices are a value considering much of what they sell is private label, premium, or super premium--like the "Belgium chocolate" above!

3) They have many items in single-serve portions, so the food is easy to make, clean up, and store. 

4) The stores are relatively small, clean, well lit, and cozy with a limited number of goods, making shopping quick and easy--they've already narrowed the field for you. 

5) They have freebies to taste in the aisles--tonight it was 2 types of coffee and a pumpkin cheesecake sample--the check out guy asked me if I had a chance to try it--uh, not on my diet, but thanks!

6) They have a cool customer service bell in front that they ring whenever you need something done--tonight it was as simple as replacing a package that had opened up--ring, ring--a clerk brought up a brand new one, jiffy quick. 

7) They double bag the goods, so the bags don't break on the way home and the goodies don't fall out. 

8) Typically convenient locations in major shopping areas and short lines inside...never have to wait more than one person ahead on the line. 

9) They are eco-friendly and have lot's of stuff that is organic, non-genetically modified, and without artificial anything. 

10) They ask you--and seem to mean it--if you found everything okay with your shopping experience, and seem more than ready to correct anything that was less than perfect. 

Despite these wonderful traits, there is something about Trader Joe's that's Normal Rockwell all smiley, small-townish annoying and claustrophobic, especially in the age of the more modern megastore supermarkets and Costco warehouses.

So it's not the only store I go to--variety is still the spice of life. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

May 5, 2014

Healthcare Where You Need It


Great new medical examination device from Tyto Care.

Handheld, mobile, cloud-based solution for performing a basic medical examination, anywhere--either remotely guided by an online physician or using the 3D avatar on the device itself for conducting a self-examination.

The device looks like the one in the doctors office that checks your ears, but it also has sensors to listen to your heart and lungs, and for viewing your eyes, throat, and skin, and for taking your temperature. 

The results can be read by the end-user or sent to a physician for review and diagnosis. 

When your not feeling well or aren't sure what's wrong--isn't great to have the convenience to have your vitals checked from wherever you are and the self-sufficiency to even get and see your own basic medical stats. 

In a time where we are under more stress to get adequate medical care due to families made up of dual working parents, jobs that are 24/7, and a declining ratio of medical professionals to patients--the Tyto seems like a breakthrough that can help us get checked and get help, anytime and place. 

Now, we just need to get our medical practitioners online and in regular remote communication with their patients--so the traditional office visit and emergency room aren't the only options for being seen. ;-)
Share/Save/Bookmark

March 17, 2014

Time To Spread The Magic

So I'm not the biggest fan of Disney theme parks -- maybe that is not a popular thing to write.

But to me, the rides alternate between fake or nauseating (when they're not broken down), the characters are outdated, the parks are hot, overcrowded, and the lines and wait times are long, and the ticket prices are sort of crazy for what you're getting (not). 

Let's see, a day at Disney or day at the beach--uh, I'll take the beach any day!

But Disney is doing something magical these days. 

Bloomberg Businessweek reports how Disney's new MagicBands are using technology to make the theme park experience more convenient, even if not more fun. 

The MagicBands are like an all-in-one electronic link between you and Disney:

- No need for an admission ticket, because the MagicBand does that.

- Reserve your favorite rides, use your wrist band. 

- Hotel room keys, that's right the band unlocks your door.

- Shopping at Disney kingdom, the band functions as your debit/credit card. 

- Being greeted by name or wished a happy birthday, the bands make your experience more personal.

What's more Disney uses the bands for "big data" analytics--for capturing your likes and preferences for rides, restaurants, food, and souvenirs--and this adds up to customer service enhancements like restocking shelves, opening up reservations, expedited queues, and even targeted mail and text messaging/advertising. 

The bands have radio frequency identification tag/chips (RFID) as well as GPS sensors, so Disney knows who you are, where you are, and even much of what you're doing. 

Spooky from a privacy standpoint--sure, you are really sitting there exposed in just about every way. 

But this technology has arrived, not just at Disney, but via embedded RFID in your smartphones or your body someday soon. 

The synthesis of man and machine...the mystery is gone in the magic kingdom, but maybe the service gets better. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

March 16, 2014

There's No Line In Online

I loved the article in the Wall Street Journal By Andy Kessler. 

Kessler's point is that technology is all about convenience. 


The way I put it is that online, there is no line!


With technology, we can do things proverbially--better, faster, cheaper.


But so much of technology really is about doing things with the utmost convenience--that means that rather then spend time hunting or gathering, searching or shopping, traveling or transacting, gaming or gambling, we can go online and in Internet speed it's done!


The beauty of the Internet and technology is that there is no queue, no lines, no waiting--just lots of convenience mainly with point and click.  


I couldn't hate lines more--hate wasting time--hate doing stupid things that have no real meaning-->time is absolutely precious! 


We are mortal and one day, time stops for all of us, so we better use what we have well--use it wisely, not wastefully. 


When we have convenience from technology, we have to spend less time on the mundane and have more time to do the things we really enjoy or that can grow us.


So get the doldrums done quickly online, and spend more time with family and friends, on fitness, pursing spiritual matters, and even learning the secrets of the universe--and then blogging about them. 


Technology is a convenience and a true G-dsend. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

September 22, 2013

Black and White and Gray All Over

My trip to South Florida this week was full of juxtapositions and lessons for me as a person:

1) Attention and Inattention—There were 2 father-son pairs in this gorgeous infinity pool at the resort.  One father and son (age maybe 3) were together—jumping, splashing, swimming, holding each other—it was really beautiful.  The other father and son (maybe 4) in contrast had the kid standing alone in the pool trying clumsily to pull a pair of goggles over his face, while his inattentive father stood off to the side glued on his smartphone.  The first kid was smiling ear-to-ear under the attentive and adoring eyes of his father, the second kid was clearly rejected and dejected. 

2) Beach and Poverty—I visited the beach in Hollywood; we were told it had a great little boardwalk.  When we got there at first, it seemed awesome with the sun and palm trees, music, eateries, skaters, and bicyclists, and more.  But as we started walking and exploring, it quickly became apparent that this was the poor side of town.  There were no high-rises here, no fancy cars, no eloquent shops, and sort of a menacing feeling overall. The contrast of the beautiful beach and boardwalk with the surrounding poverty left me feeling sort of confused about wanting to be there, but also wanting to leave.

3) Ocean and Starbucks—whenever, I come down to South Florida, I invariably end up thinking about finding a place down here.  This time, I saw some options that were attractive for very different reasons.  One place was an older building, nice and enticing with a direct ocean view.  The view from the apartment was so amazing; it literally made my wife cry.  But then we saw another condominium—this one brand new, about 15 minute walk from the ocean, but right over all the shopping, Starbucks, and conveniences.  The first place had a million dollar view, but the second place was practical and we could see ourselves really living there. 

4) Driving and Jolly--We took a trolley ride and the driver was obviously hard-working, but low paid. Yet he turned up the tunes and took us around town not just driving, but literally singing and sort of dancing to them too--waving his arms and smiling the whole time. It was great to see someone so spirited and happy in whatever they were doing in life. 

As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I see more clearly that situations in life are not simple or “black and white,” but there are lots of complexities, choices, and grays.

Do you choose self or family, live where you like or where you can earn a good living, go for the view or for the convenience, bemoan what you don't have or celebrate what you do?  Lots of decisions in life—each choice has consequences, so choose carefully.  

No one has it all—even if it looks like they do. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

April 29, 2013

Credit Card Cola

This is great--finally soda vending machines that take credit cards. 

No more looking for change or losing your cash in the machine. 

Plastic takes a another win!

Electronic and mobile payments will put hard currency out of business--sooner or later. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

February 28, 2013

Cooling Your Juice


So I've heard of someone "cooling their heels"--i.e. taking some time to calm down.

But in D.C., what some do on a chilly morning is cooling their juices.

Maybe the refrigerator is overstuffed or broken, but I suppose this works too.

This may be especially convenient if you have a couch and TV next to the window and you can just reach out and grab a cold one. 

Although for those walking down the street, watch out for those occasional falling juice bottles--cold or not, they can ruin your otherwise totally normal day in the Capital. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

February 10, 2013

How's This For A Two-In-One?

CTA makes this pedestal iPad and toilet paper holder--to help you when you really need it. 

Get your information and also your personal cleaning products at the tip of your fingers. 


Many people like to browse, read, or otherwise entertain themselves with the iPad, now you can do it and take care of your other business too. 


The CTA holder has a gooseneck so you can adjust and view at any angle, and it has a heavyweight base to keep it stable and upright. 


Imagine you can even get it at Sears for just $44.32 (or the SupplyStore.com)--affordable, entertaining, and convenient.


You may also want to consider a Philips iPad Splashguard, they come in a three pack.  ;-)

Share/Save/Bookmark

November 3, 2012

Sign Language That Really Talks


There are over 40 million deaf or hearing disabled people in the world.

Many of these people suffer from not being understood by others and feel isolated. 

Four Ukranian graduate students have created the answer for them called Enable Talk--these gloves translate sign langauge into sound. 

The gloves have sensors including compass, gyroscope, and accelerometer that captures the wearer's sign language. This is then transmitted via Bluetooth to an smartphone app that matches the sign pattens to those stored (and which can also be programmed/customized) and translates it into words and sounds. 

Enable Talk gloves won the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2012 student technology competition, and was named as one of Time Magazine's Top 25 Best Innovations of 2012. 

For $175 these gloves are an amazing value for the hearing impaired who just wants to be communicate and be understood by others. 

This is a great advance for the disabled, and I'd like to see the next iteration where the gloves have the translation and voice mechanism and speakers built in, so the smartphone and app isn't even needed any longer--then the communication is all in the gloves--simple, clean, and convenient! ;-)

Share/Save/Bookmark

November 2, 2012

Voting Firsts

With voting, this was the first time I've ever:

- Voted early--even though it was on the last early voting day.

- Had to wait on any sort of real line to vote--this one was about 30 minutes long!

- Waited outside in the cold on a line snaking around the building--until the election volunteers had a heart and let us all in and out of the cold. 

- Had electioneering occurring right outside at tables and people handing out "information" until maybe 25 feet before the doors of the polling center--in the past, this activity was always kept far away and and they didn't have the nerve to approach you as you were literally going inside the polling stations. 

- Got to sit down at a voting machine--always had to stand up previously, but from the sitting position and the "ergonomics" of the voting machine, you could hardly see them properly. 

- Had virtually no voting privacy--the machine faced the walls with the touch screens facing inward towards everyone else in the auditorium.

Despite all these voting firsts and most of them disappointing, the one voting first that I would have liked to see and didn't was Internet voting, where we would usher voting into the 21st century with ease of voting, convenience, and privacy. 

For some reason we can bank, shop, and pay taxes online, but to vote, we're still stuck in the dark ages and it seemed like overall it was getting darker. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

October 30, 2011

Satisfy or Suffice

How many of you feel satisfied or are you left still somehow yearning and hungry?
Living in a time and place where materialism is a competitive and daily fact of life for--high paying jobs, big houses, fast cars, Ivy league educations, exotic vacations, fashion and jewelry "statements", elegant restaurants, and lavish parties--it is philiosophically and practical to ask satisfy or suffice.
If we live our lives to satisfy ourselves--then we tend to a society driven by one word, and one word only--"more!"
Our appetites for material things that satisfy our senses are like a bottomless pit--to see beauty, to feel comfortable, to taste delight, to hear endless praise and envy over what we have achieved and accomplished in life--can these cravings ever really be satisfied?
With satisfaction, one of the key issues is that no matter how much we have accumulated or attained, it irks us to no end, if someone else has just a fraction more. This is called relative deprivation--we have everything we need, but we still feel short-changed because someone else has more. It's infinitely hard to be satisfied knowing that, because somehow we have failed...someone else is better off materially, and our interpretation often is that they are better innately than us and thus have gone further than we can or maybe deserve more on a spiritual level--either way another's abundance, regardless of your own successes, can still mean you are a loser!
It's funny, coming off the Metro and watching the mobs disembark from the train and race up the escalators, even when there are not a lot of people there...first one to the top is the winner; everyone else shlumps off somehow defeated afterward. G-d, this has become a sick society--what difference does the 2.347 seconds make?
Educationally, collecting degrees and certifications has become another hobby for many, so that if you don't have alphabet soup before and after your name, your frowned upon as just another ignoramus out there--as if the degree makes the person.
Another example, yesterday I heard that when getting engaged/married, the chic is that it is no longer enough to give a diamond ring to the young lady, now a matching bracelet is also part of the grand bargain or else you are not "keeping up with the Jones."
The examples go on and we can all tell them from our specific lives of the endless rat races that we endure to try and not only make ends meet, but also to compete and avoid "the shame."
So what's the alternative?
Instead of trying to be satisfied, we can learn to suffice--to be happy with what we are blessed with. That doesn't mean that you don't try to do your best in life, you do! But rather, you work hard and invest a reasonable amount of time, effort, money to achieve a goal and then you go on without beating yourself up over what you haven't achieved.
In short, happiness is in saying enough (or like on Passover, Dayenu!).
To suffice, part of it is learning to differentiate between what is really important and what is, in the end, trivial. How important is it that you get the NEXT whatever in your life versus can you be more innately happy spending time doing things you enjoy with the people you really love.
Suffice--learn to balance the demands and needs of your life--grow beyond the mundane; the true test of life is with you yourself--achieving your potential--not how you do relative to others.
An article in Wired (November 2011) talks to this when it asks about going out and finding a soulmate, "Do you keep searching and hope something better will come along, or do you stop searching when you find something looks pretty good?"
This article, whether addressing the many commitment phoebes out there, or those just having a hard time finding Mr./Mrs. Right--whether in terms of accepting and living with others' flaws or just learning to stop looking for someone prettier, smarter, more successful etc.
Wired suggests developing a baseline by dating "roughly" 12 people so that you can make an informed decision of the head and heart, but this can apply to education, career, home and all areas of your life--seek what is best for you, but also realize that we are all imperfect mortals and that only the heaven is for angels.
Suffice--do your very best in life and accept yourself for who you are and meet your destiny head-on--you can achieve happiness beyond the mere materialism and superficiality that cloud our societal judgements--this to me is enlightenment.

(Source Photo: here)

Share/Save/Bookmark

September 21, 2011

Shalom Rotundus

Rotundus, the rolling robot, was designed by the European Space Agency for exploration of distant planets like Mars and Mercury, but now it has found its way into many earthly avocations.

This Groundbot has "eyes" on either side of its roly-poly robotic body and has a unique internal pendulum for maneuvering around.

Currently, Rotundus is deployed for sentry duty at SAAB auto manufacturing plants.

However, as you can see in the video, it can also function comfortably in a home environment as a quasi baby-sitter for the kids.

Already, we see robots in Japan providing service to people from servers in restaurants to caretakers for the elderly.

I appreciated the interview with the CTO at Rotundus who shares his vision for robots that "provide not only security, but also pleasure to people."

Rotundus is a great example of how robots can come in virtually any way, shape or form.

The key is that robots leverage the best of automation and innovation to help ordinary people do things simpler, easier, and more convenient than ever before.

Share/Save/Bookmark

July 22, 2011

When The Cheapest Task Is Too Expensive

TaskRabbit is a new way to get odd jobs done by simply posting them online for others to bid on and perform them.

Browsing the list of tasks out there now, I see everything from driver for a day to laundry, matching paint colors to organizing a library, picking up items from the store to installing a t.v.--I suppose if you need it (and it's legal), you can post it. :-)

The service is available in LA, San Francisco, Orange Country, Boston, and NY--so far.

Basically, the way it works:
  1. You, the "Sender", go online and name and describe the task, including when and where you want it done as well as the maximum you are willing to pay.
  2. "Runners" are alerted and bid the minimum that they are willing to accept to do the job.
  3. You review the bids and select one.
  4. The runner performs the work.
  5. You review, rate, and reimburse for the work.
Wired (August 2011) calls TaskRabbit the "eBay for real world labor," although there are other competitors out there such as AirRun and Zaarly.

In TaskRabbit, "Customers pay by credit card, and the runner's share gets deposited into a TaskRabbit account, with checks cut every Friday."

"TaskRabbit takes 12-30% cut of each transaction."

97% of tasks get a bid from at least one runner and 75% of tasks get completed.

If you want to become a Runner-- you apply through a 3-step process that includes an application form, video interview, and a federal criminal background check.

Gaming mechanics is used to rank top runners, display their experience level and average customer reviews, and provide them a progress bar to show points needed to get to the next level.

TaskRabbit fills an important niche in our society that is increasingly time-presured, convenience-oriented, and service-based and where more and more people hire themselves out as consultants, freelancers, and Guy/Gal Fridays.

While I can see the benefits to people who need to get work done and for people looking for work, there is something about this process where we bid out our labor by the individual task--like in the video where we need someone to pick up dog food--that it can get a little degrading and meaningless. No longer are we hiring people for their knowledge, skills and abilities for long-term contributions and growth prospects, but rather we are tasking out the smallest and most mundane of tasks to the lowest bidder.

Harvard Business Review (July-August 2011) in an article called "The Age of Hyperspecialization" wrote of the new social challenges with companies such as TopCoders that crowdsources out IT work to 300,000 freelance developers in more than 200 countries, such as: "the possibility of exploitation as work quickly finds the cheapest takers, and the opportunity for deception when workers can't see the larger purpose to which they are contributing."

Crowdsourcing or outsourcing these everyday tasks can bring speed and quality to what we are looking for, but the true cost comes in terms of "digital sweatshops" and potentially "dull and meaningless" work.

Is this level of economic efficiency going to cost us all more in the end?

Share/Save/Bookmark