Saturday, May 30, 2009


Friday, May 29, 2009

The Twitterest Spectacle in Racing

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 27:  Davey Hamilton, driver...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Twitter lends itself to direct-response contests. Have you considered running a tweet contest but have worried about how to get off to a good start? Vision Racing recently ran a twitter trivia contest in conjunction with the race mania for the Indianapolis 500 and they did it right.

On May 17, @VisionRacing had 1,285 followers and started a small trivia contest by asking some questions about the Indy 500 by - May 28 they had reached 1,473 followers.

And they weren't just gathering contest junkies and twitter follower system promoters. Their follower list now includes race fans, racing junkies, and speed freaks. Just the people they wanted to reach.

What did they do right? For one, their contest trivia were questions about well known racing facts - history only a race fan would know, or would care to look up. So they stayed true to their base. Next, they were generous - they gave prizes to more than just the first right answer, which generated good will and substantial chatter on twitter. Third, they timed it well - running the contest right at the peak of interest in the Indycar series, immediately before the Indianapolis 500 race.

Kudos to vision racing for running a cool twitter contest well.

And, thanks for the t-shirts and caps I won.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Frozen eggs, aka Oocyte cryopreservation

I recently read an article regarding a now available reproductive technology, which will assist many women with a variety of reproductive issues: egg freezing. One proposed application would be to help women who have to undergo surgical removal of their ovaries to still preserve their eggs for use at another date. It used to be that women who faced that situation were not only facing a life-threatening illness, but also facing the end of any hope of conceiving their own child. It is a marvelous application of technology to help these women to find a way to lessen the impact of their illness or disease on their future fertility.

Another application would be to help women who find it inconvenient to have children during the period in their lives when they are more fertile.

Here is the excerpt:

Why I Froze My Eggs By Rachel Lehmann-Haupt | NEWSWEEK

In October, I fly to Bologna to meet with Dr. Raffaella Fabbri and Dr. Eleanora Porcu, the biologist and clinician who invented the technology at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Bologna. When the two started working together in the 1980s, they never envisioned egg freezing as a way to fulfill women's desires to "have it all." They saw the possibility of freezing unfertilized eggs as a way to sidestep a ban on freezing embryos, which the Roman Catholic Church deemed immoral. As the technique improved, so did the success rates. The clinic has achieved a 28 percent pregnancy rate from frozen eggs compared with the 18 percent rate it reported two years earlier.

Fabbri and Porcu, however, are at odds with one another. Their debate goes straight to the heart of the issues that surround egg freezing and my own intensely emotional decision over whether to do it. Fabbri supports its commercial use to extend fertility. Porcu tells me that she believes that many U.S. statistics are exaggerated in order to lure customers. She thinks that women who have no alternatives, such as patients with cancer or patients who want to store eggs instead of embryos for moral reasons, should be free to use it. Giving healthy women the opportunity to freeze their eggs to postpone childbearing with an experimental technology, she believes, is harmful for feminism. "It means that we're accepting a mentality of efficiency in which pregnancy and motherhood are marginalized," she says. "We've demonstrated that we are able to do everything like men," she continues. "Now we have to do the second revolution, which is not to become dependent on a technology that involves surgical intervention. We have to be free to be pregnant when we are fertile and young."

On first principles I agree without reservation that having more options available for whatever a woman might choose to do, and protecting the availability of those options, is the core of feminism. But Porcu (as summarized here) makes a subtle point. Does exercising this technology of oocyte cryopreservation as an option (rather than as a requirement, as might be needed in medical situations) inherently constitute an anti-feminist position which marginalizes pregnancy and motherhood? These are, after all, key components (though not comprehensive attributes) of womanhood. Does a woman who exercises these options *as options* actually act in an anti-feminist manner which contributes to the marginalization of motherhood to an afterthought, an add-in, something to be worked in around a career rather than as part of an entire life for a woman? Does having this as an available option relieve the pressures towards coming up with a more balanced motherhood/careerhood balance?

Or is the issue really one of our humanity being parceled and scheduled at more convenient times for industry?

Frozen Egg image by sylvdoanx

Monday, May 25, 2009

Amazon mobile app and the death of rational ignorance

originally published at Biznology on 5/20/09 by Eva Lyford.

I changed my shopping habits recently by acquiring Amazon Mobile for iPhone. My 7-year-old, a careful student of anything having to do with Lego acquisition, has been studying me surreptitiously. It was probably the tugging on my arm and the caterwauling pleas for instruction that gave him away. I let him have a go with it and without any instruction he very shortly was doing comparison shopping for all his favorite objects of desire. (Legos, bionicles, and Wii cartridges comprising the universe of desire for him at this point.)

The app encourages the user to take a photo and send it off to Amazon for identification. A short time later Amazon returns a likely match, pricing info, ratings, an option to add it to your wish list, and recommendations for other products. Once my son understood the concept, he was off--photographing every likely Lego item he could see, and checking out the info Amazon brought back.

There is usually a cost associated with educating yourself on a product and its pricing, so most people will only educate themselves to the point where the savings compensate for the time invested in the education: this is referred to by economists as rational ignorance.

For example, I know that the gas stations in my area sell diesel for my VW Golf TDI at prices ranging from $2.17/gal to $2.09/gal, because I've seen the signs as I drive. ($2.09/gallon is about €0.41/ltr, gentle European readers.) When I need gas, though, I don't hunt around for the place that was advertising at $2.09--I just stop at the most convenient location. Because the 96¢ savings I would get by educating myself on where to find the $2.09 retailer isn't worth the hassle.

The Amazon app reduces the costs of educating myself to near zero; or, to be more specific, since I've already assumed the fixed costs of the 3G data service and the device, the variable costs of using it drop to near zero. This is shocking, when you consider it. Retailers in some way must count upon consumer's rational ignorance to drive their pricing decisions; a retailer can price an item higher by taking advantage of the rational ignorance zone, so long as they don't exceed the threshold point where consumers would find it worth their while to do the research on pricing and find the best deal. This started in a small way with shoppers finding the best deal on travel rather than heading to a travel agency, but the shopper was still required to sit at their desk and process the transaction on a full-sized computer. The introduction of the Amazon Mobile app--and other mobile shopping tools--will change the way we shop for goods in a way that hasn't been seen since hunter-gatherer tribes first started to gather in markets.

Where does this leave retailers? Do they have anywhere near as good of an information stream to tell them which of their suppliers is offering the best price? Amazon has a clear incentive to provide this information, and encourage a shopper in a store to consider delaying their purchase gratification to gain some savings. Does any supplier have a similar incentive? Soon enough the retailers will start behaving like consumers.

Retailers already want just-in-time inventory, low stocking costs, and supply-chain efficiency. Suppliers that provide their retailers with a tool that makes it easier for the retailer to buy from them will have an advantage. This won't work in every case; obviously Chrysler's dealers can't comparison shop to find Chrysler SUVs from another manufacturer. However, an auto manufacturer's supply chain experts can shop around to find the most economical provider of the parts they need for the assembly line.

So if you're a supplier, start considering: What can you provide to your customers to eradicate ignorance? Can your customers find what they want from you by casual searches on the web? And if you're a retailer, ask yourself : Which suppliers are providing you with the best information? Are you using search technology to kill off any vestige of ignorance?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Very good to get my life back"

You have to admire a man for whom returning to normalcy means taking a place in the winners circle. And getting choked up with gratitude about his good fortune.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bloglog widgets

I found some new social networking widgets at My BlogLog. They provide some stats and analysis too. I decided to do this because I like the sense of camaraderie engendered on sites like What Would Dad Say and Blogger Buster; I would like to provide the same courtesy to my readers.

I really do like Google Friend Connect also, but as a newer social networking service it seems to offer fewer options to feature people as having visited this site.

Following are examples of the widgets which are available for My Bloglog members.

Join My Community at MyBloglog!

My recent visitors:

Top Links:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Twitter management console

There are a plethora of twitter management tools available. However, there is no centralized site that takes advantage of all of these services and consolidates them. One can achieve a manageable symbiosis or quasi-dashboard for reviewing the twitter tool set by using available badges, As follows.
  1. Survey the available twitter tools, and select those badge-able tools which you prefer
  2. Consolidate all those badges together into one html space, for example in one html page. This can even be a private page on your local machine, if you don't wish to make such a page public.
  3. Review the page regularly to check for updates.

Here's my example.

Twitter Grader





Mr Tweet

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Unintentional economic experiments

When we adopted our beagles from the Humane Society of Indianapolis, the dogs were provided with 30 days free pet insurance from Pet Care Insurance. Our first dog, Perl, was adopted under my husband's name and he opted to extend the policy for $10/mo when the time was up. Beau was adopted under my name, and frugal as I am I couldn't see the need for pet insurance so I let it expire.

Perl since then has had 2 knee surgeries and we have saved back the cost of the insurance and then some on her treatments. Beau seemed indestructible until recently, when he tried to climb a tree chasing a squirrel and splintered his dew claw down into the paw pad. After a week went by and it was getting worse, we ended up with anesthesia, extraction, and antibiotics for him. Poor guy. That's his photo with the megaphone accessory to amplify my guilt. And I've now used up all the savings I had accrued by not paying the copay for his insurance. So, I'll be enrolling him now for the program. That's Perl to the left wearing her 'I told you so' expression.

We've recommended Pet Care to all our foster dog adopters, neighbors, and to many others. Disclosure:Pet Care Insurance does offer us a $25 referral fee. While I'd be happy to spend it on dog biscuits, in fairness to those who opt to sign up for insurance via the referral you can have the $25 back for yourself - I wouldn't want you to think I recommend them just to get the referral fee. Alternatively, tell me if you'd like me to donate it to the Humane Society of Indianapolis or another animal welfare group of your choice.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tech-savvy Realtors

I found my realtor, Michelle Morris on Twitter. She is also on facebook, maintains her own website in addition to the Agency page for her, and is very responsive by email. And generally an all-around great gal.

It was important to me to pick a tech savvy realtor because
  1. I am tech savvy, and didn't want to take time to train a realtor to understand my suggestions and questions relating to technology and real estate.
  2. I wanted a realtor in this economic downturn who could pull out all the stops and present the home for sale in all venues; for example, I suggested that my realtor present the house on Google Base and with 24 hours it was done. I didn't have to teach her how to do it or wait for some administrator the realtor relied upon to do it.
  3. I find that tech savvy people in general are more responsive, ready to engage and criticize and react, and I wanted that for my house sale - someone who would "list and wait" wasn't my preference. I did previously work with a realtor who was less tech savvy and it was inconvenient, and the house wasn't sold.
Check out this article by Melissa Ezarik on Bankrate for more info: Tech-savvy Agents get Results.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Making No a good thing.

Different organizations have different cultures. In some organizations, it is very difficult to reach agreement. A 'yes' answer may obligate a person to a lot of support work, or it may be seen as too risky or too aggressive. A yes answer may normally only be culturally acceptable from only the most technically knowledgeable, so those who feel they aren't the smartest on the topic will be silent. What can you do to make project progress in such a culture?

Make a 'no' answer the progressive choice. For example, if a project faces a decision node with two options, instead of asking the team to select one and getting frustrated at the sound of crickets in reply, instead ask which one the team doesn't want to do. The discussion then may be quite active in putting down the less desirable option.

Don't make it a head game. Instead, realize that the culture is such that no answers simply are easier to arrive at than yes answers. Use it to your advantage in order to keep things rolling.

A bonsai gardener applies the same principle in developing a beautiful plant to a pleasing form through pruning. Each time the gardener prunes a branch, the gardener is selecting the branch that was not cut to be the one that thrives. In the same way, acknowledge your organization's culture and work with it to advance your projects and reduce your frustration.