Predicting your secrets, but not admitting it

We all know that companies are collecting massive amounts of data about us (or we should), but somehow we are surprised that companies actually crunch the data and act up on it.  Sunday’s New York Times magazine addressed this issue looking at how Target has targeted pregnant women

“As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.”

Although I don’t think we should be surprised that big companies like Target know so much about us and are acting on it, it does surprise me that Target has decided to cloak how much they know about us by sending us random coupons, too.

“And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”

This randomness is what disturbs me because are they throwing in random coupons to disguise what they know about me or just because they get better usage when they do it. Either way I think they are treading on shaky ground ethically because they are admitting they understand that the consumer doesn’t like that they know so much about them.

Developers: we don’t crash EVER!

If you a manage a web site and it crashes you think about all the users hitting your site at that time and getting the same error message that you just saw when you discovered it had crashed. If you look at it from the user perspective, you immediately go into high gear to get your site back online. There’s a scene in the movie The Social Network (which I watched again last week) that expresses the same emotion. Zuckerberg goes off on Eduardo Saverin for closing down their businesses checking accounts.

Without money the site can’t function. Okay, let me tell you the difference between Facebook and everyone else, we don’t crash EVER! If those servers are down for even a day, our entire reputation is irreversibly destroyed! Users are fickle, Friendster has proved that. Even a few people leaving would reverberate through the entire userbase. The users are interconnected, that is the whole point. College kids are online because their friends are online, and if one domino goes, the other dominos go, don’t you get that? I am not going back to the Caribbean Night at AEPi!

Moneyball: which number moves you?

Moneyball is a great movie. Finally watched it last night. It reminds of some very simple logic.

Find the number that best dictates your success. Measure everything about that number. Determine which factors move that number in a positive direction. Measure everything about those factors. Use the most efficient way possible to influence the main number in the right direction to find success.

Is the Kindle Fire for content or purchases?

I bought my wife a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I’m impressed and she loves it (and the price isn’t bad either).

I’ve read a lot of hype that says that Amazon is pushing the device to make more sales, but I really believe that is a pure content device. It’s a great reader, beautiful HD player and runs all the Android apps once you get out of the Amazon App store.

In contrast to most critics I actually prefer the size of the Fire to the iPad and I don’t really have any issues with the Silk web browser. My wife carries it with her everywhere- It’s the perfect purse device.  She has a Nook e-reader before and we’ve installed the Nook App so she has her previously purchased Barnes and Noble’s e-books on her Amazon Kindle Fire.

You really have to have an Amazon prime membership to get the most out of  the Fire. With the a Prime membership you can stream videos to it and participate in the Kindle lending library.


What’s the most important part of a CMS?

Most web sites today are ran by a content management system (CMS). A CMS separates content from design and makes it easy to post content to the site without the knowledge of HTML. A CMS can be cheap (open source – free) or expensive ($100,000) plus a year, but what feature of a CMS is the most important?

  • Reliability – Your web site has to be up to accomplish your goal.
  • Ease of use – If it’s not easy for your users to post content forget it.
  • Speed – Your web sites must be fast for someone to enjoy it.
  • SEO – The mother’s milk of web sites.
  • Social – Does it play well with Facebook and Twitter.
  • Administrative costs – It may be free, but how many server administrators does it take to run it?