Thoughts on Tony Stewart Incident and Track Safety

I’ve talked to a few folks about this since it happened, read lots of posts on it and started to form my own opinion. Here’s a recap of what happened, as factual and non-presumptuous as possible:

  1. Tony Stewart raced in an amateur Sprint Car dirt track race in the evening Saturday August 9th at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, NY. He was set to race a NASCAR race the next day at Watkins Glen, about 50 miles away.
  2. There was an on-track incident between the cars driven by Tony Stewart and 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. As a result Kevin Ward Jr. spun and crashed with his car apparently non-operable on the track. Yellow flags come out, which means caution, no overtaking.
  3. Kevin Ward Jr. gets out of his car with cars still on track, apparently in an attempt to confront Tony Stewart the next time he comes around.
  4. Many cars drive by Kevin Ward Jr. and when Tony Stewart comes around, Kevin is hit by Tony’s car and injured seriously enough to die shortly thereafter.

This is an extremely sad circumstance. I feel extremely sorry for the Ward family’s loss, particularly since they were in the stands to see it. I have personally not watched a video of the incident, because I don’t feel the need to watch someone die. I’ve read enough to still make some statements about this as an avid racing fan, an attendee of racing schools and a sometimes-driver at amateur races and track days. Continue reading

Color-blind products will fail: defining a new phrase

Yes, I’m color blind (a little bit), but that’s not what I mean. I’m referring to Color, a new photo-sharing iPhone app that’s the fastest pivot ever. The launch was PR’d to hell as a new way of sharing photos with social/proximity/location/buzzword-do-jour added in. Yet a couple days later, after a lot of people being perplexed by what the app is, the CEO is now on the record as saying it’s more of data-mining company than anything else. Oh really. Touché.

So let’s recap what happened at launch: Continue reading

Please stop retweeting testimonial spam

Twitter is an awesome tool. Non-users have asked me how to use it and my answer generally is that it differs from person to person. In my case, I use it mainly as a source of news by following interesting people and bots, as well as a few lighthearted moments through people I know personally making funny comments or tweeting funny links. I will try to be funny myself in my tweets, tweet interesting articles I find (often from within the site/app I’m reading them on) or retweet interesting articles I see in my stream.

I don’t use any fancy readers for Twitter besides the Twitter-provided ones on Mac, iPad and iPhone. When I open the app, I have a long list of all the tweets, completely unfiltered, and I start to scan them in reverse chronological order from roughly where I left off before, reading whatever sounds interesting. Being a multiple-times-daily habit makes you realize not only the topics and frequency of tweets for each person I follow, but also I really start to get a sense of quality. Quality is obviously a subjective word, but in my use case of Twitter, quality simply means “how likely am I to a) read b) digest c) react to and d) click on the link in a tweet?”

Unfortunately, there are some people who use Twitter very differently from me and I question why they use it this way. No, I don’t mean the shameless self-promoters, narcissists or the brand/product-centric marketing accounts. What I mean is the people who search for stuff related to their company and then retweet those testimonials. I question this because:

  1. Why do I care? I know your service/product/opinion is great and you can tell me that, but you don’t need to send me 5+ tweets a day from strangers to prove a point I already know. Just send me an interesting article every few days or a cool stat about it.
  2. With my Twitter clients, retweets show up as coming from the original poster, not the retweeter. Using my quality metric and limited time, I tend to skip many retweets. The only saving grace is when I notice that the retweeter is a super high quality user. Then I sometimes click through.
  3. When you do send a worthwhile non-retweet, non-testimonial tweet out, as a testimonial spammer your assumed quality is so low that I mostly don’t bother reading any of your tweets.

So in essence, consider the signal-to-noise ratio in your actions on Twitter. Send lots of signal with little noise. My reaction is that after some time, I unfollow people who are effectively spamming me. Now I know one un-follow from me is completely meaningless, but I also know that others are frustrated by this as well and have probably found ways to filter you out or will unfollow you too. Remember, this means that means even your worthwhile tweets get sent to junk and now you’ve completely defeated the purpose of sending out tweets. So stop the Twitter testimonial spam. Get a separate corporate account for that. Thank you.

Let’s build some parking tech for public good

I got the idea to think about this by coming across the latest article on San Francisco’s plan to introduce congestion (demand-based) pricing for public parking spots. These spots currently use coin or card-based payment solutions which are being converted into pay stations in many areas. This is the system where you park and then pay at a central box serving 10-15 cars or so. You can even use credit cards at these, not just coins. For now, the rate is fixed for all times of the day, so this just saves money in maintenance and collection from many individual meters.
Wikipedia does a decent job of explaining the economic rationale of this, but in essence, congestion pricing is the idea of using market economics to better balance the negative externality created by a pricing mismatch of a public good where peak demand outstrips supply of a highly supply-constrained resource. Read the Wikipedia article to get on the economics and academic commentary, since that’s not the point here. My goal here instead is to step away from the rationale for it, provide a little anecdotal evidence in support and brainstorm a few of opportunities I think it creates, expanding on some of what the article mentions.

The Economist is wrong about MBAs

I came across an article in the Economist today called “Think twice” which makes the argument that it may no longer be worth it to get an MBA. It’s written by a Harvard MBA and frankly, I think Philip Delves Broughton is only out to try to sell more of his book “What They Teach you at Harvard Business School”. He sounds fairly bitter and his argument is roughly as follows:

  1. Supposedly more and more students are finding the promise of Business Schools to get you ahead “hollow”, meaning they’re not fast-tracking you into careers, networks, money, etc. Duh, you have to work for it especially in a global economy with lots of motivated students who weren’t born with a silver spoon.
  2. B-Schools are desperate for money and professors are after your money to fund their “threadbare” research. Sure, for some it’s just bodies in the door, but in the end all that’s doing is setting market-clearing prices for a good which people want.
  3. Some companies don’t have MBAs in their leadership rank have been successful, e.g. Apple., and companies are no longer looking for MBAs who just come with spreadsheets. Wrong, we come with Powerpoint, because we only do strategy. 🙂
  4. Overall the financial ROI of all MBA programs is bad. It’s only good at the top ones. More on this later.
  5. There’s no point to getting a disparate network of friends since you like have singular focus on a career. I don’t like people either.

Since I’m writing this, I obviously disagree. On the highest of levels, I disagree with the notion that an MBA should be embarked upon solely for financial gain and thus distilled down to ROI (return on investment), unless investment includes many other subjective factors like fun, network, brand, inspiration, knowledge, etc.

I don’t disagree because I have an MBA myself and I don’t plan to disagree line by line further, since hat would be fun for me to write, but I’d bore you and it leads to tons of anecdotal argumentation. Instead, I want to debunk a couple things and then provide some advice on setting goals and using metrics to measure them, i.e. not just financial ROI.

Continue reading