Does Amazon Want You To Fight Roosters?

Ah, remember when having the world’s largest selection of merchandise was a good thing?  Well apparently’s decision to offer magaiznes catering to the Cock Fighting crowd has – in what will be the most overused pun in a decade – ruffled some feathers.

The Register UK and Computerworld report the Humane Society has slapped with a lawsuit.  The action specifically concerns "The Underground Pitbull Breeders Association,, and the publishers of The Gamecock and The Feathered Warrior. Also targeted are the DVDs Unleashed: The Realest Pitbull Action Caught on Tape and Hood Fights Vol. 2, The Art of the Pit, both "depicting illegal dogfighting".

According to the Humane Society, "At issue in the case are four items which the HSUS has repeatedly asked to drop from its sales list because they depict and promote cruel dogfighting and cockfighting events in violation of federal law. is the sole retailer of subscriptions to the animal fighting magazines and the only outlet for animal fighters to obtain subscriptions over the internet. Similarly, is one of only three sellers of the dogfighting DVD and the easiest seller to locate on the web.  A Humane Society review of the last 12 months of The Gamecock and The Feathered Warrior found that more than 90 per cent of the magazines’ advertisements are nothing more than a solicitation to commit a crime…and uncovered evidence that such magazines are published for the express purpose of promoting unlawful animal fighting and are found at more than 75 per cent of the animal fighting operations that have been raided by law enforcement officers."

So in one corner, you have the Humane Society using a legal argument to try to quell a market that by all terms of human decency, shouldn’t even exist.  In the other corner you have, standing behind a 1st Amendment argument of, "Hey we sell everything." Now as easy as this decision might seem, its likely they are sticking to this argument so one day they can’t get forced into a corner either by the religious right or liberal left over whether or not to sell, "How to Fix your Gay Friend" or "Jesus was a Sex Addict."  Saying, "We Sell Everything" when it comes to literature on cock-fighting gets you about as far down the reprehensible spectrum as you can go.

And let’s not forget, Amazon doesn’t create the marketplace for this material.  Someone is writing the articles, someone is publishing the magazine, someone else is selling the ads, someone else is buying the ads and still someone else buys the magazine.  So as awful as it sounds, this isn’t all Amazon’s fault.

Now the marketing side of this is a little grayer.  It’s a fallacy for Amazon to say, "We Sell Everything."  "24 Ways to Attack Paris Hilton" would not be listed amongst their catalog.  Amazon is grown up enough that they need to come out and be strong, and say, "This sport isn’t right.  It’s so off the radar in terms of social acceptance, that this is not a 1st Amendment issue.  There are bounds of good taste, and while we do not believe that we should be the arbitrator of good taste, we have enough common sense to know this does not live up to the standards of the 1.6 Billion other products we offer."

What $20k gets you at

Looking for that special brithday gift? Looks like has exactly what you’re looking for.  According to the description: amzn tank.jpg
"The JL421 Badonkadonk is a completely unique, extremely rare land vehicle and battle tank. Designed with versatility in mind, the Donk can transport cargo or a crew of five internally or on the roof, and can be piloted from within the armored shell or from an exposed standing position through the hatch, thanks to special one-way steel mesh armor windows and a control stick that pivots up and down to allow piloting from the standing or seated positions. The interior is fully carpeted and cozy, with accent lighting and room for up to five people."

In case you’re curious, people who bought this item also bought:
Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks: A Creativity Tool for Innovators by Roger Von Oech
America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It
by Mark Steyn

Unfortunately, it doesn’t qualify for free shipping under Amazon Prime – but you CAN add it to your wedding registry….

The Marketing Guy’s Worst Nightmare

I’m imagining being the marketing guy at Microsoft charged with increasing the amount of time a user spends on their computer each day, lets call it Director of PCMPD (PC Minutes per Day). Being Microsoft, I probably have a staff member for each segment – 6-10 years old, 11-15, 16-19, 20-29, 30-39, etc….plus a dotted line over to the enterprise PCMPD Director which is split into vertical segments, as well as a weekly meet-up with the XBOXMPD, ZuneMPD, MobileMPD and other MPD directors.

Now my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ boss, Mr Bill Gates himelf, comes out and says he and his wife Melinda decided to set a limit on their daughter of 45 minutes a day of total screen time for games and an hour a day on weekends, plus what time she needs for homework.  "Up to some age, to be determined, it’s very appropriate for a parent to get a sense of what they’re seeing out there and be able to have conversations about it," he said.

I think I just heard the head of the world’s largest software company say that kids should not spend all day in front of a screen….

Jobs Blasts Teachers Union – Does He Make Sense?

Last Friday in Dallas, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell shared a stage, and Jobs blasted the teachers unions.  (How many politicians wish they could have said the same thing?)

Jobs lambasted teacher unions, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers."I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said. 

"This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy." At various pauses, the audience applauded enthusiastically. Dell sat quietly with his hands folded in his lap.

It’s refreshing to see a businessperson stand up and say what many people think.   A good friend of mine is a teacher, and has this to say about his own union.  "They’re ridiculous.  You can’t claim, ‘alll teachers are good so none of us should be fired’ and in the next breath say, ‘we are paid too little to attract talented teachers.’  Which one is it?  Are we good or bad? Because we can’t be great and crappy at the same time." 

I love teachers.  I think the work they do is admirable.  But let’s face it, if you can’t evaluate and eliminate underperformers, no amount of money can fix a problem.  Guaranteed employment and a paycheck based on seniority, not merit, is a sure way to encourage mediocrity.  Teachers unions will hopefully take this to heart and in the next levy for increased wages, I hope there is some sort of control for grading the graders, rewarding the strongest ones, and pushing out those who can’t pass the eval.

Bubble Watch

Everyone is looking for signs so they’ll recognize when the tech resurgence as become tech over-enthusiasm.  Well, here may be one company we look back on as an example of a technology searching – no trying to create – a need.

The Seattle Times brings us the story of SpotScout, Inc.  Users in the SpotScout network will never have to search for parking spot again.  The company envisions a world where before you leave your house, you enter information offering your driveway or parking spot for sale or rent.  Then you look for users near where you are travelling to, and see who has a place to sell or rent you.  "In the 21st century, you shouldn’t have to look for a parking space anymore," said SpotScout Chief Executive Andrew Rollert, a 32-year-old software engineer.

The company claims 12 employees on zero revenue so far, and with no VC backers.

My bubble barometer managed to stay in control solely because no VC firms have funded them.  But when you have 12 guys working around the clock to make sure people don’t have to drive 30 extra seconds to find a parking spot, you have a neat hobby that you and 11 friends would use, not a viable business offering a service people need.   I hope the technology turns into something very useful that can be embedded into cars in the future.

Pardon the Rant…


…But what must the rest of the world be thinking.  You turn on CNN, and you have an over matched judge mugging for a national TV audience, with a bunch lawyers fighting about who gets to take control of the body of a now 2 week dead Anna Nicole Smith.  Never mind the fights over custody, inheritance or support, this is just over who gets the body.  Do we really need a video camera inside this hearing? 

At some point, doesn’t the pubic’s right to know lose credence against the public’s right to get things done effectively?  The issue I have is that TV coverage of the hearings makes everyone money, but takes away from the lawyer’s ability to litigate without having every word analyzed by pseudo law journalists pretending they are legal John Maddens.

I can’t beleive a British Paper doesn’t have a "Page 6" type section updated daily with the caption, "How Crazy are the Americans…"

Rant over.  Now back to business. 


I’m not terribly well versed in political marketing, but my sense is that is the first social networking site developed by a Presidential candidate of import.

It’s not hard to understand why connecting freinds of Obama together through chat rooms and message boards would be a powerful thing.  But it will be interesting to see if the web site allows free form of ideas, or moderates posts it finds unconstructive.  For example, if two Obama supporters debate opposite sides of an Obama platform, will we all see the debate, or will it be stricken?  If sections of the Message Boards are over run by Hillary supporters, what is the protocol?

Every candidate who runs a site faces these political attacks on blog comments, and it’s never been a big deal to just keep them from beng published.  But a social network is designed around the free form of ideas and thoughts, which is counter intuitive to edits and review.  I’m interested to see the editorial decisions that get made.  

PicNik – I could play here all day

I stumbled across PicNik today and here’s a place I could end up wasting a lot of time. It immediately went into my favorite links at the right.

It’s probably an insult to call them this, but it’s essentially Photoshop for Dummies, and I mean that in a great way.  Photoshop can be a pain for simpletons like me who just want to manipulate an image in some really easy way.  PicNik probably isn’t the only photo imaging site out there, but if you need to make some tweaks to anything in your photo library, give it a whirl.

Marketing Soccer in the U.S.

The U.S. beat Mexico in a friendly tonight 2-0.  It’s an otherwise unremarkable event for a Wednesday night.

Except the George and Dragon Pub in Fremont was packed to the gills.  Univ of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona had 63,000 people – I’d say mixed pretty half and half US/Mexico fans.  And the game was on ESPN 2, not relegated to Fox Soccer or some other channel up north of Channel 400.  Again, all of this for a friendly.

So when a bunch of smart tech guys sit in a bar with hundreds of people watching an inconsequential soccer match, the conversation always comes up – How do you make a pro soccer league work here? 

I’ve purposely not commented on the Beckham signing.  There are people who get paid lots of money to run financial analyses that say that was a good idea.  There’s no mystery there.  You can’t round up 250 Million smackers from smart, global marketers with a pitch of, "I have this idea…"

So a few people on different Web sites have thrown out interesting concepts about what will make soccer work here.  This post will be continued for years, as more and more good thoughts get fleshed out.  So here are some things I’ve heard from the man on the street:

1) Investment from NBA and MLB players – Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez are soccer fans.  It’s easy to presume many others are as well.  MLS, Division 1 and Division 2 teams are well within their capabilities for financial investment.  Kobe Bryant’s Inner City Soccer Organization would bring crossover kids from basketball to soccer.  It’s arbitrage for them.  Buy a part of a team cheap, make the sport more popular, team increases in value.

2)  More regionalization –  The EPL works because every team can be reached by train.  The European Professional League would not work.  No one in Newcastle cares about  Marseilles or Hamburg.  The U.S. is just too big. MLS doesn’t need New York vs Salt Lake.  It needs Salt Lake vs LA 1,  LA 2, LA 3, LA 4, Denver, Seattle, San Fran, Oakland, San Jose, etc…You need separate regional leagues that come together in a more Champions League-like way every so often. It’s not a national TV show, it’s a regional one.

3) Become the preferred place for South American players – US Pro Soccer should not ever compete with the EPL and Serie A.  It needs to feed them.  But not with kids who play US college soccer.  We need to bring up the best young South Americans, train them in 1st class facilities, and feed them to Europe.

4)  More overlap with Mexican League – The short-term wins are with Hispanic speaking US residents and other international imports.  Continue to build the rivalries between teams like Chivas and Real Salt Lake.

5) Radical idea: Blow up the NCAA soccer programs – I heard this from a drunk.  But there’s no need for college soccer.  Loses money for the University and dilutes the talent pool.  Get the top players into these regional leagues.  They can still go to school, but not play for the school. 

6) A week of EPL games in East Coast Cities every year – It’s a fairly short flight.  Why not set a week in the EPL schedule where you put togther all the crappy non-rivalries, and ship the games to the U.S?  Try a few Spurs vs Bolton or Newcastle vs Fulham games in New York one year and just see what happens. 

Good soccer in the U.S. will happen eventually.  EPL-like soccer in the U.S. won’t.  The continuing question is how do we replicate the 63,000 fans at a friendly into some sort of consistent soccer crowd?