Thursday, July 22, 2004

Quality and Value

There are too many definitions and not enough words sometimes.

Quality is a coin with two very different sides. On one side the manufactures looks at the things that go into a product, the materials, the workmanship, the design. And on the other are the customers and they are looking for the value they can get out of it.

Customers define quality as how they can do their jobs better, faster, cheaper, not how much the manufacture can build the product better, faster or cheaper.

I have seen a lot of navel-gazing companies that think just because they make it better from their point of view and then the new product tanks because it has nothing that the customer wants anymore.

Peter Drucker has a great little story of a pad lock manufacturer that is selling a cheap padlock that could be opened with a pin. They decided to improve it so it couldn't be opened with a pin, Well, sales plummeted and it turned out that the market really wanted a padlock that just held itself together and a simple trigger to open it was enough.

Find out what the customer really does with the product and give it to them.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Fun Weather Condition

I didn't have a camera handy so I don't have a picture of this really cool weather effect.
It is partly sunny today with a great chance for afternoon thundershowers around here somewhere, like just over there, but not here.
Well, there was a really large white cumulus cloud to the north of town and it was just in the right place for this effect with another in front of the sun itself.
As we were driving back from OfficeMax I noticed that the cars and truck around us have some very odd shadows, there were shadows on the south side of the cars. I took me a minute to realize what I was seeing. As a hobby I do a little photography and it was just like a subject lit with two light sources. It was the oddest thing and took me some time to figure out how the light was coming to pull off the effect.
That was just really cool.

Looking At Something Else

This HBS article has a very interesting quote:

Toyota is so confident that its system cannot be replicated that it has welcomed competitors into its factories. "Study us all you want," the company has said. Despite decades of trying, no rival has matched Toyota's system.

It tells me that what people study when they get the look is not what needs to be looked at. It isn't just the technology or just the people. It would be how they interact.
It is like Fourobous quotes, "Culture is more important then strategy." Both are needed or they wouldn't be nearly as effective.
It is similar to a good message presented badly, the message will still get through though not to as many people. A bad message presented well doesn't work very well either. A good message and a good presentation are far more powerful together then not.
It is almost like a street magician, one hand most fast to draw your eye as he slowly moves his other hand that has the quarter hidden in it.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Abject Failure

While perusing Jerry's Mail which links to this.

It is the same kind of logic as this.

This kind of stupidity makes me very angry.

The Company Hiring Paradox

I have been reading a number of business books lately. and it brought to the fore of my mind that there seems to be a paradox in the way companies hire.

There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to hiring: hire the best and hire the cheapest. Now there are good points for going with one or the other.

Hiring the Best
If you hire the best they will likely outperform the average by 10 or 100 times, they will also cost a similar amount. The best have a major advantage they do not need much in the way of management. They are able to do things very naturally that many people cannot do without a lot of training and work up. They do need support so that they can spend the vast majority of their time on high value activities, like designing or selling or doing brain surgery. So giving them assistants, interns, secretaries and office managers to do the lower-value things like go through the mail, run errands, put paper in the copier, fix the computer and take out the trash.

Hiring the Cheapest
If you are hiring the cheapest you have the advantage of low cost of labor. This can be a good thing, but a major disadvantage is that they will need lots of management and supervision. They will also be limited in the tasks that they will be able to do, if you have a set of straightforward tasks that is part of your business then they will be a great to have to do those things. This usually described as unskilled labor.

The Crazy Company
There are plenty of companies that want the best but only want to pay for the cheapest. They can get around this a little by finding someone who is ignorant of their potential. Lots of companies hire students straight out of college and high school if they show talent and enthusiasm, they often work cheap only because they don't yet know how much they are worth. They will jump ship once they put the pieces together and you haven't gotten them up to parity with their peers.

The other way is to get the best and then have them do essentially menial labor by doing a lot of simple tasks that anyone can do. That is such a waste of money. It would be like paying Julia Child to work the grill in McDonalds.

Conclusion
Try to match up the task to the type of person needed for it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Mac vs Windows

In the last week I have come across just a load of very interesting articles on computers and how they help and hurt us.

Daring Fireball has Broken Windows a telling statistic is that there are nearly 1000 new viruses introduced on Windows every month. That is too insane to believe. Before OS X the Mac had only about 300.

If you think I am exaggerating how about this article from Windows Network magazine. How much money did he flush down the toilet just trying to get his laptop working again. It would probably be cheaper to buy a second laptop that is only used when the first is taken out, while someone else deals with reinstalling Windows.

Funny Business has a terrible time with a PC sent out for repair.

Then there is this ZDnet Study about how often PCs are down. Since they are down 9 days a year that would mean a loss of $7,200/yr in productivity (engineer costing the company $100/hr)
And they say that a Mac costs too much!? That like 9 new eMacs EVERY year.

That is a lot of pain I am glad I don't deal with it much any more.

Got to MacvsPC for a lot for information.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Some Little Changes

I experimented today with the template so that I can add Links and a BlogRoll. There is probably a template that has this already but this is a good place to start.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Apple Needs Better Marketing

With all of the Apple commercials and print ads that I have seen I have only seen one that shows me what I can do with a Mac. The one showed a kid that made an alarm clock for an original iMac that played music and showed pictures and had a recording of his mother telling him to get up. That gives us a reason to buy a Mac.

How about a commercial like this.
An older couple pull an iMac out of the box, pull in power and telephone put an iSight on top and the next thing you see are the grandchildren waving "Hi, grandma and grandpa!" in the iChatAV window.

Show a young mother downloading pictures to iPhoto and creating a .Mac webpage.

Show an architect rendering a skyscraper.

Show an office worker building a report with Word and Excel.

Show a teenager with a video camera making a music video and burning it to DVD and showing it on a big screen TV to a bunch of others.

Show an executive giving a Keynote presentation.

Show the Mac doing stuff and people will pay attention.
The image ads are cute but a complete waste of money.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

All Evil Needs To Win is For Good People To Do Nothing

They Want Us To Destroy Ourselves
USS Clueless does a great job talking about Michael Moore and the Loony Left.

All Evil Needs To Win is For Good People To Do Nothing.
A lot of people are beginning to say that they are not going to vote at all because they don't like Bush but they don't like the Democratic ticket either. The problem is that the Loony Left WILL get out an vote. If you don't vote you are agreeing with whoever wins. They won't pay any attention to you if you don't vote at all, Politicians can only understand votes, Even if you vote for a third party then your vote counts and will be noticed.

To not vote is to say you don't care, and if you don't care why should they, they will talk to people who talk to them and if you aren't talking to them, who is?

Back of the Envelope Calculations
There are about 3000 counties in the US and with about 300,000,000 and about 12% of people voting you end up with a side needing only 122 votes to win a county, actually less since not everyone is eligible to vote. If we say half the people can vote (Average family size of 4) then it only takes 61 votes to win a county. If 40% always vote Republican and 40% always vote Democrat then that makes it only 12 people who have to swing the vote.

How hard would it be to get 12 people together to vote as a block in each county?

It might not really be this straightforward but it isn't all that hard.

Go out and vote the more people voting the harder it will be to get those people together.

The Mac isn't easy to talk about

I probably should give up on BusinessWeek, if Apple followed all the advice given it by them they would be long gone.

He flogs price on almost every point, 1) drop the price, 2) make it cheap and cool, 3) make it cheap by removing the monitor 4) make it cheap by offering a trade-in allowance, 5) Let the buyers try it before buying it. This one I actually think is a good idea. I have noticed that when people have 2-3 weeks to try a Mac they get over their Windows conditioning and start learning the Mac way and things start working better for them, though it is them changing and not the computer. and finally 6) Sell security, I am ambivalent about this one, because though OS X has not real viruses right now, to advertise that fact prominently would be seen as a challenge and so we might end up with a bunch of viruses, though it would take a very long time to catch up to Windows.

This advice is part of that inward gaze of cost control that companies take when they have no ability to innovate. Apple can innovate just fine, thank you very much, A mac costs about the same as any feature-comparable Windows box on the market usually less. Even if you take the lowest end computer out there by the time you add all the things you need to to make it feature comparable to the Mac you end up with a computer that costs even more then the Mac. I have long ago realized that you get what you pay for. The lowest cost stuff costs too much of my time to fiddle with to get working. I need stuff that works right away and always so I can be productive.

Strategy of Best
Apple makes some of the best quality computers around. They may not be the very first out with something but when they pick up a technology and run with it the entire industry tends to follow them. USB, Firewire, WiFi (Airport), and iTunes/iPod are all examples of that. Apple should not cheapen their position by going for commodity status.

The Headless iMac
I have seen the headless iMac talked about all over the Web and I am very doubtful that Apple would go there again. What do you mean again? Surely you remember the Cube debacle. I think Apple learned a lesson there. A cheap headless computer doesn't sell unless it is big-time expandable. Is that the right lesson? It is hard to tell without another test as everyone suggests with an enclosure with the guts of an iMac. I just don't see them doing it for a while yet, they can't afford the reputation damage a market failure that could be.

Try Before you Buy
I really like this idea. Changing computer platforms is a big risk for most people, getting their data across and installing the correct software is a very big deal. Microsoft has some intellectual lock-in going here. It is so hard just moving from Windows 9x to Windows XP that they think it must be even harder to switch to a completely different platform. Letting people bring in their PCs to Apple Stores and having everything migrated and some training time for free would be fantastic. If Apple takes all the risk of getting everything moved over and up & running, with 30 days to try it, it would allay most peoples fears. They could even do it on-site for a nominal fee.

Computer Risks
I just had a Thingish Thought after that last paragraph. There is some risk in changing computer platforms though not all that much, a few files here in there might not transfer perfectly.

However, there is a huge perceived risk in moving away from Windows for most people. Every Windows user has horror stories about when their computer died just when they needed it most. The perception is that Windows is popular because it is the best and therefore everything else is worse then Windows and since Windows is so bad that it is barely usable then anything else must not work at all and why would I waste my time.

The Mac isn't easy to talk about
The unofficial slogan for the Mac is "It just Works." I have seen it many times and there are lots of stories on the Web about someone being introduced to the Mac and doing something and going, "That's it? That was easy!"

The Mac is easy to show, if you have one there both of you can be in front of and do stuff to, preferably the new guy running the show and the Mac person just hinting at the way to go. People are amazed at just how easy it can be.

The real problem is that the Mac is not so easy to talk about. This is definitely a case of a picture is worth a thousand words. We need an easy way to talk about the Mac like Atkins is an easy way to talk about dieting. "It just works" is a great slogan but doesn't mean much to people who have not yet used a Mac.

It is a little better now, with iLifes' "It's Microsoft Office for the rest of your life." and Searchlights' "Like Google for your harddrive." but really doesn't do it justice. I need to think about this more.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Odd Powers of Steve Jobs

Using a Mac is great. I get much more done on my Mac then on my PC but it is so weird to see the effects of one of Steve Jobs' keynotes. The Reality Distortion Field(TM) he has is really impressive.

I have read several people recently saying how great Apples' Marketing but to my eyes all I see are image ads, the "we're cool and that is all we have to say about it" ind of ads. But that is not a terribly good reason to buy something.

I would much rather have an ad that gives me good reasons to buy a product. Features like Searchlight are a great thing, I have over 2 GB of data on my hard drive and trying to find something is rather more difficult then I like. Fast User Switching was a great feature for my family since that allows us to share the computers far easier though the HP printer driver restricts that some since it doesn't work if more then one user is logged in. And I like having the ability to have a dozen or so applications open at the same time and the system doesn't fall down on me.

It almost seems as though Steve is happy at the few percent of market share that Apple has. That does not seem like who he is, but it seems to me that the advertising that Apple is doing is holding it back more then helping it.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The Constitution—A Glorious Standard

The Constitution—A Glorious Standard

How important the Constitution is to me.

Happy 4th of July

The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Thursday, July 01, 2004