Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts

August 10, 2020

Beautiful Cookware

Thought this was beautiful cookware at the Amazon 4-Star Store.

BTW, can't believe Amazon is now getting into bricks and mortar too!

These enameled cast iron dutch oven pots are colorful and useful. 

In a way, they are too good-looking to use.  

Maybe just put them on the stovetop and let them look pretty. 

There is always the microwave for the real food. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 18, 2019

Impeach + AOC


I saw these two photos separately.

But I instantly realized that they belong together. 

Like peanut butter and jelly. 

Who is a bigger pee brain than AOC?

* She impulsively lost 25,000 jobs and $5 billion investment in NYC from Amazon (as well as about $27.5 billion in tax revenue over 25 years). 

* Her ridiculous Green New Deal wanted to rid us of farting cows and airplanes and didn't get a single yes vote in the Senate (even from her own party). 

* AOC stated that the three branches of government are the "the presidency, the senate, and the house" (Uh, wrong!). 

* Ocasio-Cortez boasts insanely that government deficit-spending doesn't really matter (hmm, I wonder is that how she handles her personal finances too?).

* She allies herself with fellow anti-American and anti-Semites like:
- Ilhan "(Schmilhan) Somebody Did Something [on 9/11]" Omar
- Rhasida "(Israel-Hater) They Forgot What Country They Represent" Tlaib
- Linda "Muslim Brotherhood" Sarsour

How did anyone actually vote for (or support) people like these to run this amazing country?  ;-)

(Source Photo: AOC is from Facebook and Impeachment is from me)
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February 21, 2019

-25,000 Jobs NYC

While some politicians are hard at work to create jobs, revive our manufacturing, and expand our economy...

...Others like NY Representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are busy destroying jobs from her city. 

After a grueling competition for the Amazon HQ2 with 200 cities offering incentives to land one of two 2nd Headquarters for Amazon, the winners were Arlington, VA and Long Island City, NY.

These lucky cities were to divide 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in investment by technology and e-Commerce behemoth, Amazon. 

Instead of thanking G-d for their good fortune and celebrating their win under the political savvy of New York's Governor, Andrew Cuomo and NYC's Mayor, Bill de Blasio, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez railed against the "corporate welfare" and basically killed the deal. 

What should be critically noted is that incentives for Amazon were based on meeting their performance benchmarks for NYC and Arlington and were not corporate charity or handouts. 

What Socialist, Ocasio-Cortez failed to understand is that Capitalism is successful precisely because of competition and incentives for performance, and that capital is ideally allocated to where it can get its highest return. 

In short, New York and Virginia weren't giving away the farm, they were competing for great jobs and investment in their cities--and that's what 200 cities recognized from Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. 

Aside from AOC's blatant bigotry and Anti-Semitism so far, she has goofed with a Green Deal that promised income security (socialist handouts) to those "unwilling to work" and sought to get rid of everything from "farting cows" to Airplanes, and now she's lost 25,000 jobs in NY. 

Voters in NY and Democrats in Congress should be paying attention to their new Socialist champion and one of its extremists in chief. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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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)
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October 11, 2017

Amazon + Teva = A Marriage Made In Heaven


Amazon has upended so many industries--and you can basically buy almost anything there.

And yes, what you can't buy today, you will be able to buy tomorrow. 

What started as books and DVDs is now virtually synonymous with e-Commerce itself!
Next up for Amazon is pharmaceuticals!

Some people may think that Whole Foods gives Amazon the footprint it needs to sell these and dominate.

But what people aren't considering is that Amazon can sell the pharmaceuticals online.

Amazon can do what other online drug distributors can't.

Why?

Because Amazon has the most unbelievable distribution network in the world. 

Currently, people can order drugs through the mail, but these tend to be for regular reoccurring prescriptions that have lead time. 

However, Amazon can outdo these mail order pharma companies, because they can get you the drugs you need when and where you need it. 

- You don't feel well and can't make it to CVS, Amazon will deliver to your door. 

- Need same-day delivery, no problem. 

- Plus do all your shopping together in one fell timesaving swoop. 

My prediction: 
Amazon the low cost, efficient online seller of everything to everywhere is going to partner with Teva Pharmaceuticals, the #1 world leader in low cost generic drugs.

Teva already produces 120 billion tablets and capsules every year, operates in 80 countries, and currently fills 1 in 6 generic prescriptions in the U.S. 
Together, Amazon and Teva can make beautiful music, that is medicine + money!

Who needs CVS when pharmaceuticals perhaps soon can be gotten at Whole Foods or at your Trusty Amazon.com.  

One more time, I see some radical disruption--and this time it will bring you cheaper and more convenient drugs--make a l'chaim to your health. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

(Endnote: I am a big fan + investor in Teva, and of course, all opinions here are my own.)
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August 11, 2016

Transitioning To Virtual Ease and Triviality

I took this photo a few weeks ago on the streets in Washington, D.C.

This was a huge box from eBay coming to someone.

In my building, they recently built an extra storeroom for all the deliveries that are coming everyday--there is no where to put all of them.


While today in the Wall Street Journal, even the revered retailer of Herald Square, Macy's, had their stock price shed half it's value in the last year, and other big box retailers are hurting just as bad. 

eCommerce is threatening the very survival of brick and mortal retailers, as they are seriously eating their lunch--and breakfast and dinner too!

But this is part of a much larger transition occurring from our physical to virtual worlds...

As we abandon department stores and the Mall for online shopping, 
movie theaters and playhouses for home theaters and video streaming, 
physical activities for gaming and virtual reality, 
and even factories and office work for telework and robots,  
soon we will have no real place to go and nothing to physically do. 

From the bed and couch to the computer and gym, like hamsters on the wheel of triviality, we might as well package ourselves up in the big eBay box and send ourselves to outer space--but only as long as we can get Internet access there. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

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February 6, 2016

What does 600613 Spell?

As per my previous blogs on the mystical number 613 (corresponding to the G-d's commandments in the Torah), today we have a technological twist.

Recently, Google paid an award to a former employee of $6,006.13.

The amount is special in two ways as you can see:

First of all, Google saw that, if you look closely, this number spells Google. 

Secondly, it has the number mystical number 613 in it. 

613 is a winner and so is Google, which is now the the most valuable company in the U.S. (worth more than Apple) at $554 billion!

If you use simple Gematria, where each letter is a number (A=1, B=2, C=3...Z=26), then Guess what other successful technology companies has the mystical 613 in their names:















(Also, see which amazing technology company has 613 twice in their name!)

In contrast, some ailing technology companies that do not have 613:

- Yahoo

- Twitter

- LinkedIn

613 is a reminder of G-d's benevolence to mankind in that he G-d us the commandments as a roadmap to live by.  613 is a symbol of faith in G-d almighty and in his holy Torah (Bible). 

For those that keep His charge, we believe that Hashem will bless them and keep them. 

Indeed, technology used for the good of mankind is a blessing to us all.  ;-)

(Source Graphics: Andy and Dossy Blumenthal)
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October 24, 2015

Where's The Value?

So I don't know how I feel about this or maybe I do. 

The Wall Street Journal reports today that from the 10 largest companies by market capitalization:

1) The top 3 are technology companies

- Apple $679B
- Alphabet (Google's Parent) $489B
- Microsoft $422B

2) Moreover, a full 5 (half) of the top 10 are technology companies

That includes the 3 above and the other 2 below:

- Facebook $288B
- Amazon $280B

As a technology person, I am thrilled at the impact that IT has on our society. 

We are no longer the same thanks to our Apple iPhones, Google Search, Microsoft's business tools like Outlook, Office and SharePoint, Facebook's social networking, and Amazon's online shopping. 

But to think that these information capabilities outweigh by value everything else in society that we need as people is somewhat astounding.

For example, the other 5 of the top 10 companies are:

- Exxon Mobil (Oil and Gas) $346B 
- Berkshire Hathaway (Insurance, Utilities, Clothing, Building Products, Retail, Flight Services) $340B
- General Electric (Power and Water, Oil and Gas, Energy Management, Aviation, Healthcare, Transportation) $298B
- Wells Fargo (World's Largest Bank) $280B
- Johnson and Johnson (Pharmaceuticals) $278B

So when you add these behemoths up--this is what we have:

The 5 top technology companies are worth $2.158T

Vs.

The top 5 traditional companies from all the other industries combined are worth only $1.542T

Net it out:

The largest representative IT companies are worth $616B or 40% more than the other major companies combined.

(In fact, just the top 3 IT companies at $1.56T are worth more than the top 5 other companies at $1.542T.) 

Sure IT growth has been on a tear for the last couple of decades and we love everything futuristic it brings us. 

But isn't it a little scary to think that the companies that meet all our other needs from food, clothing, shelter, medicine, transportation, energy, finance, retail, etc. isn't worth more to us than just the IT alone. 

Perhaps adding it up from a value perspective just doesn't add up in a real life perspective. 

I love technology and want more and more of it, but man does not live by technology alone. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 16, 2015

B&N Chairs Are The Pits

So if you ever go to Barnes and Nobles, you'll see that they have the most horribly hard wooden chairs. 

They are so  uncomfortable--many people seem to rather sprawl out on the floor to browse the magazines and books, rather then get a butt bender in those darn chairs. 

Some other people that I've seen now have resorted to placing cushy stuffed animals on the chairs to ease the discomfit on the arse!

I took this picture of someone's chair by the window with 2 stuffed animals left over after what must've been a much needed cushion liner on the the bare wood. 

[BTW, sorry for whoever buys those sat on, smelled on stuffed animals afterwards--ew!]

The question is why invite people in to browse and sit--if you are only going to make them so uncomfortable.

Ok, I get the implicit message, "You can read for a few minutes, but otherwise buy something or get the h*ck out!"

And not that they are wrong (they aren't), but why resort to making people physically uncomfortable and forcing them to leave instead of making everything welcoming and encouraging shopping and sales.

Barnes and Nobles--a nice place to visit for 20 minutes as long as you have some stuffed animals for your butt--but Amazon will reign bookstore supreme. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 26, 2014

Goods AND Serices --> AMAZON

Really like what I read yesterday...Amazon is expanding from selling goods to also adding services.

Amazon is the #1 stop for just about any daily purchase (except things like cars and houses, which I think Amazon will eventually consider for an acquisition in the future as well). 

With their nearly effortless shopping experience, free shipping (for "Prime" customers), and easy returns, it is eCommerce as it was meant to be!

Now according to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is adding local service providers from plumbers to electricians.

The cross-selling possibilities are luring--so that as you purchase a household item, up pops local services providers for someone to install or service the item--it's all integrated.

Moreover, Amazon will do background checks on these service partners, determine if they have liability insurance, and offer a money-back guarantee on the services rendered (Oy vey to Craigslist and Angie's List).

Amazon is a brilliant retailer, once they have holodeck like virtual reality experience where you can simulate actually being next the goods to look at them, feel them, even try them (on), then we will achieve shopping nirvana and will never have to enter a Best Buy or other useless and obsolete bricks and mortar retailer again. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Yo Mostro)

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October 10, 2014

Selfie Heaven

So this lady found out how to take the best selfies.

She has an extendable stick with an adjustable ball head that attaches to her smartphone, and a separate remote control for snapping the photos.

Here she is with the camera snapping away.

I looked it up on Amazon and this device is only around $6.

For a completely ego-centric society without friends, why not get this doodad and you too can take selfish selfies all day long. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 22, 2014

From Pepper Spray to Champagne

Shhh! This is the story of drones. 

Drones continue to go from battlefield to backyard. 

Initially, developed for advanced persistent surveillance and later weaponized for targeting terrorists, we heard the like of Jeff Bezos promise drones for Amazon delivery. 

Once again, the double-edge of drones continues...

This week we saw the introduction of scary, "Riot Control Drones" developed by Desert Wolf (a military contractor) that can shoot 4,000 rounds of pepper spray, paint balls, and non-lethal plastic projectiles, employs bright strobe lights and blinding lasers, and issues commands and warnings through loud speakers, and monitors crowds of protesters by high-definition and thermal vision cameras. 

At the same time, we saw drones being used as Flying Bel Hops in the luxury Casa Madrona hotel and spa in California for delivering champagne, treats, toys, and even sunglasses to their $10,000 a night guests on their guest deck or even to a boat out on the bay. 

And we are still only at the beginning, with drones, and robotics in general, moving to revolutionize our world.  

Robots will surveil, they will attack and kill, and they will serve people everywhere from restaurants and retail to hospitals and homes.

You can't shush the robots, they are on the march and they will have the means to help and hurt people--it won't be simple, but it definitely will be completely invasive. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 8, 2014

Amazing Amazon

So Amazon should be renamed Amazing, because they are.

They are the best online retailer--love 'em!

SELECTION: Amazon has everything. 

PRICE: Amazon is reasonably priced.

SPEED: Amazon Prime gets you your goodies delivered in under 48 hours. 

RETURNS: Amazon takes returns easily; virtually no questions asked. 

Amazon is so customer focused that you can even email Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO himself, at Jeff@Amazon.com. 

Aside from their highly successful retail operation, they have the Kindle tablets, Amazon Web Services (AWS) for cloud computing, Kiva Robots for warehouse operations, and more. 

So what's the secret of their success?

One thing, according to the Wall Street Journal, is their tough hiring practices. 

Amazon has "several hundred" interviewers called "Bar Raisers" that give candidates extremely thorough interviews.

Bar Raisers typically have conducted "dozens or hundreds of interviews and gained a reputation for asking tough questions and identifying candidates who go on to become stars."

Typically, it "takes five or six employees at least two hours each" to evaluate and vet an applicant. 

Amazon makes all this effort in recruiting to weed out people who are the wrong fit for the company. 

They believe that it's better to invest in a sophisticated recruiting process than to make costly hiring mistakes. 

While this certainly sounds like a well thought out and vigorous hiring process, the article makes little to no mention of performance measures showing that their hires really are better matches, have superior performance, or stay with the company longer. 

The one anecdote given was of a Bar Raiser who found a candidate for a programming job that "didn't know much about the specific programming language."

Barring some real statistics though, either you could conclude that Amazon's hiring process is truly superior or perhaps question why it takes them 5 to 6 interviews to do what other successful companies do in 1 or 2. 

Either way though, Amazon is a amazingly great company. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 8, 2013

Amazon Delivery - By Crunk-Car, If You Like

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is one very smart guy and when he announces that he is interested in drones delivering your next online order that makes for a lot of grandstanding. 

But really how is a dumb drone delivering an order of diapers or a book so exciting. 

Aside from putting a lot of delivery people at USPS, UPS, and FedEx out of work, what does the consumer get out of it? 

Honestly, I don't care if if the delivery comes by Zike-Bike, Crunk-Car, Zumble-Zay, Bumble-Boat, or a Gazoom, as Dr. Seuss would say--I just care that it gets here fast, safely, and cheaply. 

Will a drone be able to accomplish those things, likely--so great, send the drone over with my next order, but this doesn't represent the next big technological leap. 

It doesn't give us what the real world of robotics in the future is offering: artificial intelligence, natural language processing, augmentation of humans, or substitution by robots altogether, to do things stronger, faster, and more precisely, and even perhaps companionship to people. 

Turning surveillance and attack drones into delivery agents is perhaps a nice gesture to make a weapon into an everyday service provider. 

And maybe the Octocopters even help get products to customers within that holy grail, one day timeframe, that all the retailers are scampering for.

It's certainly a great marketing tool--because it's got our attention and we're talking about it.

But I'll take a humanoid robot sporting a metallic smile that can actually interact with people, solve problems, and perform a multitude of useful everyday functions--whether a caregiver, a bodyguard, or even a virtual friend (e.g. Data from Star Trek)--over a moving thingamajig that Dr. Seuss foresaw for Marvin K. Mooney. ;-)
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December 16, 2012

Amazon Will Bury Walmart

I've never seen the great allure of Walmart. Actually before I moved from NYC to the DC area more than a decade ago, I had never even seen a Walmart--and that was just fine. 

But I had heard these amazing tales of how they were superstores with everything you could ever want and at low prices and the shopping experience was supposed to be, oh what a delight!

So I cannot tell you my utter disappointment the first time I went to Walmart--shabby storefronts, elderly door greeters handing out store circulars and stickers, messy aisles and shelves, with low price tags on a swirling everything, and sort of the image of crummy leftover merchanidse throughout, and top that off with pushing crowds trying to save a couple of bucks on the junk. 

Let's just say, I'm not running back to Walmart, especially when we have online shopping experiences like Amazon--now that is much closer to nirvana. 

No drive, no crowds, no wait, no up and down the aisles looking for what you want, no shlepping, and no in your face "everyday low prices" image and we won't let you forget it--instead easy to find, interesting, varied, and quality merchandise of all types, at reasonable prices, with an easy checkout process, home delivery, free shipping, and easy returns. 

And as opposed to Walmart which is stuck in costly and inconvenient large brick and mortar stores, Amazon is investing in infrastructure of the future with convenient warehouse and delivery centers throughout the country, and more recently with their purchase of Kiva Systems in March 2012 for implementing robotics in their fulfillment centers. 

On top of it, Walmart (with nearly 2.2 million employees worldwide) in its endeavor to keep prices low, have spun up their workforce with jobs--that are often part time and unpredictable, low wage, lacking proper benefits, unsafe working conditions, and with questionable advancement opportunties (especially for women). Throw on top of that bribery allegations for which they've hired a new complaince officer. Yet, Walmart has also somehow managed to keep their workforce from unionizing to improve things. 

So how should we say this: how about straight out--Amazon gets it and Walmart does not!

And while Walmart has their own .com site--which coincidentally looks very much like Amazon's--Amazon is eating Walmart's lunch online, with according to NBC News a 41% revenue increase for Amazon's online sales versus just 3.4% for Walmart's. Moreover, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 March 2012) reports that Walmart's 2011 online sales amounted to less than 2% of their U.S. sales--they just can't seem to make the digital transformation!

So While overall Amazon sales at $48 billion are still only about 1/9 of Walmart colossal $419 billion, Amazon with it's high-tech approach (including their successful Kindle eReaders, cloud computing, and more) is anticipated to reach $100 billion in online sales by 2015

Like the other big box retailers of yore, Kmart, Sears, JC Penny, Circuit City, Best Buy, and more, Walmart will decline--it will just take a little longer and with a little more thrashing, because of the size of their checkbooks.  

Perhaps, as the New York Times implied years ago (17 July 2005) only stores like Costco (and throw in Nordstroms as well) with their tall aisles stocked neatly with quality goods, at low prices, and with better human capital ethos, will survive the big box retailer Armageddon.

My prediction is that within a generation Amazon will bury Walmart, if not literally so they are out of business, then figuratively with the best and most lucrative online shopping experience around--and as for the matchup betweent them, it won't even be close.  ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Fuschia Foot)
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November 24, 2012

Bye Bye Old Kindle



I had to get rid of an old Kindle e-Reader from my daughter today.

She's looking forward instead to the next generation Kindle Fire HD.

So, out with the old and in with the new.


Note: No children were present during this filming. 


Warning: The manufacturer cautions against "disassemble, punture, crush, heat, or burn," so please don't try this.  


Anyway now the device is a goner! ;-)


(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)

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April 20, 2010

The Editable Society

If you’re using a book reader like the Kindle or iPad and are downloading books to read, they are just like real paper books, except that the written word is now dynamic and the text can be changed out.

Wired Magazine, May 2010, has an article by Steven Levy called “Every Day They Rewrite the Book.”

“When you are connected to an e-reading device, the seller does have the capability to mess with the content on your device, whether you ask it to or not.”

Mr. Levy tells how “people were shocked to discover this last summer when Amazon, realizing that it had mistakenly sold some bootlegged copies of George Orwell’s 1984, deleted all of them from customers’ Kindles.”

Since them, Amazon “notifies customers of an update to the book they purchased; if a buyer wants the changes made, the company will replace the old file with the new one. In other words, the edition you buy remains fixed unless you agree otherwise.”

Changes on the fly—with the owner’s consent—is a positive thing when for example, publishing mistakes get corrected and new developments are updated, as Levy points out.

I guess what is amazing to me is that things that we take for granted as always being there…like a book, a song, a document, a video, a photo are not static anymore. As bits and bytes on our computers, e-readers, iPods, smartphones, and so on, they are every bit as dynamic as the first day they were created—just go in and edit it, hit save, and voila!

Documents and books can be edited and replaced. Songs, videos, and photos can be cropped, spliced, touched up and so on. There is no single timeless reality anymore, because all the material things that is being digitized or virtualized are subject to editing—or even deletion.

On the one hand, it is exciting to know that we live in a dynamic high-tech society, where nothing is “written in stone” and we can change and adapt relatively easily, by just logging on and making changes.

On the other hand, living in such a malleable electronic wonderworld means that with some pretty unsophisticated and common tools these days, pictures can be doctored, books can revised, and history can be literally rewritten. For example, just think about how anyone can go on Wikipedia and make changes to entries; if others don’t cry foul and undo the revisions, they stick.

It seems to be that with the technology to quickly and easily make changes electronically, comes the responsibility to protect what is true and historically valuable. No one person should decide what is fact or fiction, a valid change or a distortion of reality—rather it is a mandate on all of us.

I think this is where the importance of democracy and things like crowdsourcing comes into play—where as a society we together direct the changes that affect us all.

It is a frightening world where files can erased or doctored, not just because your own work can be changed, deleted, or destroyed, but because everyone’s work can be—and nothing is long-lasting or stable anymore.

I may be particularly sensitive to this being the child of Holocaust survivors, where the notion of a world where holocaust deniers can just “edit” history and pretend that the holocaust never happened is a scary world indeed.

But also a world, where malevolent people like hackers and cyber terrorists or dangerous devices like e-bombs (electromagetic pulses or EMPs) can damage systems and storage devices, means that electronic files are not secure from change or erasure.

We’ve become a society where everything is temporary—our marriages, our jobs, our stock portfolios, our homes, and so on—everything is disposable, changeable, and editable. We have truly become an editable society.

We need to balance our ability to edit with the necessity to create order and stability, and like Amazon learned, not change out files at random (without notifying and getting permission).

In IT, this is the essence of good governance, where you plan a structure that can breathe and adapt as times change, but that is also stable and secure for the organization to perform its mission.


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June 8, 2008

Cognitive Styles and Enterprise Architecture

We are all familiar with personalizing websites like Yahoo.com to make them more appealing, functional, and easy to navigate.

Now, according to MIT Technology Review, 9 June 2008, websites are being personalized not by the person, but rather by systems “that detect a user’s cognitive style” and changes the website accordingly

What is cognitive style?

Cognitive style is how a person thinks. Some people are more simplistic, others more detail-oriented, some like charts and graphs, and some like to be able to see and get to peer advice.

Why is cognitive style important?

Well, if we can figure out a person’s way of thinking and what appeals to them, then we can tailor websites to them and make them more useful, useable, and more effective at selling to them.

“Initial studies show that morphing a website to suit different types of visitors could increase the site’s sales by about 20 percent.”

So what’s new about this, haven’t sites like Amazon been tailoring their offering to users for quite some time?

Amazon and other sites “offer personalized features…drawing from user profiles, stored cookies, or long questionnaires.” The new method is based instead on system adaptation “within the first few clicks on the website by analyzing each user’s patterns of clicks.”

With cognitive style adaptation, “suddenly, you’re finding the website is easy to navigate, more comfortable, and it gives you the information you need.” Yet, the user may not even realize the website has been personalized to him.

“In addition to guessing each user’s cognitive style by analyzing that person’s pattern of clicks, the system would track data over time to see which versions of the website work most effectively for which cognitive style.” So there is learning going on by the system and the system gets better at matching sites to user types over time!

If we overlay the psychological dimension such as personality types and cognitive styles to web design and web adaptation, then we can individuate and improve websites for the end-user and for the site owner who is trying to get information or services out there.

Using cognitive styles to enhance website effectiveness is right in line with User-centric Enterprise Architecture that seeks to provide useful and usable EA products and services. Moreover, EA must learn to appreciate and recognize different cognitive styles of its users, and adapt its information presentation accordingly. This is done, for example, in providing three levels of EA detail for different types of end-users, such as profiles for executives, models for mid-level managers, and inventories for analysts. This concept could be further developed to actually modify EA products for the specific end-user cognitive styles. While this could be considerable work and must be balanced against the expected return, it really comes down to tailoring your product to your audience and that is nothing new.


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November 20, 2007

E-books and enterprise architecture

Does anyone really think you want to read a book on a computer screen?

Well, vendors like Sony with their "Reader" and Amazon with their new "Kindle" think you will.

However, while 110 million iPods have been sold, only 100,000 e-book readers have sold in North America. (The Wall Street Journal, 20 November 2007)

A Kindle costs $399 and downloading a best-seller is $9.99, while classics cost as little as $1.99. You can also get newspaper subscriptions online for a monthly subscription fee.

While Amazon has a wonderful vision "to have every book that has ever been in print available in less than 60 seconds," the core hurdle from a User-centric EA perspective needs to be addressed:

Users can and like to read size manageable documents online (like this blog, maybe), but a book on a screen does still not 'feel' natural and is tiring on users physically, mentally, and emotionally. The core requirement is for ergonomic reading and it's just not there!

While the current technology enables e-book reading without a backlight and "provides an experience that is akin to reading on paper, and users can even change the font size to make print larger and easier to read, the technology is not still user-friendly. Can you easily jump back and reread something? Can you easily highlight or underline? Can you annotate in the margins? Can you flip over the corner of the page to mark it as important? And with all these, can you do it in a way that is appealing to the various human sensation in a holistic way? Finally, can you easily experience (not just with a page number) your progress as you read through the book, so you can feel good about it?

As the article states: "he likes the physicality of a book and the sense of making progress as he reads." There is definitely a very human pleasure aspect missing in reading a book online and until vendors figures out the missing architectural components that links the user and the technology with an interface that is user-centric, the e-readers will continue to flounder.

The WSJ concludes that "even some dedicated fans of digital technology say they have their doubts about reading books in an electronic format," and for now so do I.
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