Social Good Plus A Profit Motive

ma femme veut rencontrer mon ami I’m not sure why I’m so late to the game on Prosper.com, a web site designed so that people who need loans can receive funds from ordinary people who are looking to make a return on their reserve cash.propsper.jpg

living social speed dating los angeles The concept is pretty simple, people with money become parts of "mutual fund-like" loans to individuals who can’t or don’t want to go through a bank.  There is research that people are more likely to repay loans when they know there is a human behind it, and they know who those humans are. The lenders get good returns – 10-25% and their money is spread among a bunch of different loans so the risks are mitigated.   

source url My initial thought was that there is an issue where people who need the loans may not have the broadband or even Internet connection to take part, but that’s probably a subtle qualifying factor.  If you can’t find a broadband internet connection these days, I probably don’t want to loan money to you.   

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I’ll Take “Appliances Married Men Would Never Be Allowed to Own” for $1000 please Alex.

homme cherche femme dans le 49 From the Seattle Times:

go Summarized: John Cornwell graduated from Duke University last year, and built a refrigerator that can toss a can of beer to his couch with the click of a remote control.  It took about 150 hours and $400 in parts to modify a mini-fridge common to many college dorm rooms into the beer-tossing machine, which can launch 10 cans of beer from its magazine before needing a reload. With a click of the remote, fashioned from a car’s keyless entry device, a small elevator inside the refrigerator lifts a beer can through a hole and loads it into the fridge’s catapult arm. A second click fires the device, tossing the beer up to 20 feet — "far enough to get to the couch," he said. In developing his beer catapult, Cornwell said he dented a few walls and came close to accidentally throwing a can through his television. He’s since fine-tuned the machine to land a beer where he usually sits at home, on what he called "a right-angle couch system."  For now, the machine throws only cans, although Cornwell has thought about making a version that can throw a bottle. The most beer he has run through the machine was at a party, when he launched a couple of 24-can cases.  A video featuring the device is a hit on the Internet, where more than 600,000 people have watched it at metacafe.com, earning Cornwell more than $3,000 from the Web site.

I love it.  Guy builds a totally usueless contraption.  Films himself using it.  Posts it online – makes $3k for his troubles.  Also, talk about something that doesn’t make any sense – a guy too lazy to walk 10 feet for about 15 seconds of travel time, spends the equivalent of a week building a solution to the problem.  And they say American ingenuity is dead…

Update:  He also has his own Web site: www.beerlauncher.com  

Does Amazon Want You To Fight Roosters?

Ah, remember when having the world’s largest selection of merchandise was a good thing?  Well apparently Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com with a lawsuit.  The action specifically concerns "The Underground Pitbull Breeders Association, StreetHeatDVD.com, 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 Amazon.com to drop from its sales list because they depict and promote cruel dogfighting and cockfighting events in violation of federal law. Amazon.com 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, Amazon.com is one of only three sellers of the dogfighting DVD and the easiest seller to locate on the web.  here 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 Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com

Looking for that special brithday gift? Looks like Amazon.com 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:
source link Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks: A Creativity Tool for Innovators by Roger Von Oech source
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…

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…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. 

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