Saturday, April 25, 2015

Idea: Billboard Printer

Google Maps
The other day, both of these billboards were empty as I drove by. Not even a "this billboard for rent" but just plain empty.

I began to think about how even as so many other things have been democratized, automated and made more accessible, as far as I know, billboards are still a very manual, very expensive prospect. 

I can't (again, as far as I know), go online, pull out a credit card, type in my message, upload some graphics, and see my billboard in a few hours.  But I should be able to.

Here's my proposal: A billboard printer.

At the top of the billboard, a roll of recyclable fabric.  At the bottom, an empty reel.  A motor that can roll the fabric either way.

Along the top edge, a  very large ink jet printer. (Hello, HP?)  Connected, of course, to a cellular data connection.  And some solar powers or an electrical connection.

You pay a base price for your ad and then you pay for each hour that it appears.  (Most likely new ads would be printed in the middle of the night.  Or, you can buy open hours same day at rush rates.)

Certain hours would cost more depending on traffic potential.  The further in advance you buy, the cheaper it is and the more likely you are to secure the timeslots you want.  Likewise, it's pretty cheap if you've already got an ad printed and there's open spaces same day.  

Somewhere along the way a combination of human and automated processing determines if an ad is appropriate to a particular locale.  And the full-service model (design and placement) exists for those who don't want to DIY.

Every so often the rolls are swapped out and washed, or the ink is designed to fade on its own after a certain amount of time.  (That would then need a camera to make sure the quality is still good.)

Anyhow, I'd love to patent this (if no one has already), but on the other hand, it would be cool enough to hear that someone liked it well enough to create a proof of concept.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Feed Sift (04/24/2015)

Hooray, Friday! Have a read, have a look, hopefully you find something cool - I thought they were all cool.


WEBURBANIST.COM -- Adaptive Architecture: 12 Transforming & Convertible Buildings


TECHBLOG.NETFLIX.COM -- Netflix Hack Day - Winter 2015


ENGADGET.COM -- Underwater Aussie wave farms pump both power and water


TWISTEDSIFTER.COM -- Iron Man Delivers a Real Bionic Arm to 7 Year-Old Alex



Saturday, April 18, 2015

New Product Idea: Glitter and Confetti Cannon

Our daughter went to a party recently and when my wife dropped her off, she didn't spot a lot of decoration. In the past, there have been some amazing theme parties.  Lori wasn't sure if she hadn't ventured far enough in the house or maybe the child had outgrown themed parties.

Or, I thought, maybe they just hadn't done it yet. Immediately I imagined a device that you would walk around with shooting stuff onto the walls. The flaws with such a product were immediately apparent, but it was fun to imagine anyhow. The only way it would work is if it were one of those bastardy-products - you know the type - not actually designed to be used, but simply designed to be sold. Once they have your money, they don't care. Not something you'll ever buy again, not something you'll even admit to your friends you bought, let alone warn them off from. It'd have to be sold at discount stores or places where people only shop infrequently, like party supply stores.  And it would have to work just well enough to deter people from demanding refunds.

If anyone makes such a product in the future, I wish for no credit whatsoever for this horrible idea. I promise that at least one of my future product ideas will be decent. (It involves billboards.)

Also, the similarities to Homer's make-up shotgun aren't lost on me.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Business Card

I thought Mr. Stevens, Head of Catering, needed a business card.

For those who get it, enjoy (and please share).

For those who don't know what this is, I can't help you.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Call Me Maybe

We found a cell phone in our yard the other day. It wouldn't turn on and it used a proprietary plug we didn't have.  It had a cell phone company's logo on it, but not a company we're currently customers of.  I went to their website and poked around until I found a phone number. I navigated a lengthy phone tree before hitting a point where, without a valid account number, it thanked me for my call and disconnected.

I tried again using the number on the phone itself.  I recognized the phone tree as being the second half of the phone tree from the first call, but this time, I dialed more wisely until I finally got a human. I explained that I had found a phone in my yard and could he look it up and call them (if they had another phone on file) and let them know we'd found it.

He seemed to vaguely understand what I wanted and then started asking for a particular number by some acronym.  None of the numbers on the sticker were prefaced with anything so I didn't know what he wanted.  After several tries, I was able to successfully relay two of the three rows to him and after quite some time, he was able to find the phone but there was no record of ownership and the phone was not active.  So I said that I'd safely recycle it and he launched into a spiel about their buyback program and how I could apply it towards a new phone if it was in good connection.  I said no, the screen was cracked and it looked like it had been run over and the antenna was all chewed.  (At this precise moment I realized it been handed down and was a child's toy.)  But by this point, he was already telling me that even if they couldn't buy it back, that I could activate it and start new service with them. Really, dude? 

(I'm intentionally leaving out the company's name.  This was a weird experience but it's not about this one company.)

Your company has far more non-customers than customers.  Let's be optimistic and call them future customers.

When was the last time you personally approached your company from the perspective of a non-customer? What happens to edge cases? Is it endless phone trees designed to limit human contact, or is it a place where you'll make a great first impression?  A great first impression may lead to a sale today, a sale in the future, or some great word-of-mouth.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Do you hate us?

I paid bills this morning.  It's not a task I enjoy.  Mostly because I think the credit card companies are really not our friends.

Ok, what am I thinking? Credit card companies have been accused of trying to trick and rip-off customers since the beginning of time, or at least the beginning of credit cards.

But these new tactics seem to be designed to infuriate, frustrate or cause late payments...

Sunday Due Dates - I'm pretty sure that they're not receiving or processing mail on Sunday  This may have no impact on people who pay the credit card company's website, but I use my bank's bill payment system and they don't allow weekend payments, even if the payments are electronic. At the end of the day, it's a minor thing, an error message and a little frustration on my part when I try to choose the payment date, but it still feels designed to be annoying.  If I had a credit card company, payments would be due on Wednesdays and if they were received by Friday, they'd be considered on time.

Obscure, Generic, Easy-to-Overlook emails - I would almost accuse Discover of sending me too many emails... email when a bill's due, email a few days before the due date, an email when the payment is received, except that all of Discover's emails are helpful, easy-to-read and informative. Chase, on the other hand, has moved to generic, text-only emails that are really easy to overlook. They give you no specifics (you have sign-in to their website to actually learn any useful information).

Disconnection from Payment Systems - Chase recently eliminated the online connection to bill payment services (or at least mine).  I can still pay my credit card from my bill pay service, but I can no longer see due dates, the minimum and full amounts due and I no longer get emails from my bank when a new payment is due.  I actually ended up with a late payment.  At the end of the day, I had a bill due and I didn't pay it by the due date, I will accept responsibility, that's on me.  But I can still lament the helpful tool that's been taken away and wonder why on earth it was taken away, why a credit card company would want to eliminate helpful reminders that bills are due.

These types of abuses make me think it's time to turn paper bills back on. Although I wouldn't be surprised if they want to charge me for them.


So... what about you? Take a few minutes, close your eyes, and think about your customers. (If you don't have a business, think about your constituents, congregants, family.. the people you interact with, the people who you rely on, the people who rely on you.)

What do you see? Do you see nameless voids to carelessly and ruthlessly extract money (or whatever) from, to discard without concern because there are plenty more? Or do you see individuals, people like yourself? People who you want to have a relationship with for the long-haul?

You can build a business being crummy. People will still do business with you in droves if you're just a tiny bit better than the competition, or you're a monopoly, or you try to fill your ranks with people who don't know any better. Do that and you'll get the bottom of the barrel, people will leave as soon as they can, people who will do the bare minimum, people who won't appreciate you, won't spend more with you, won't encourage their friends to do business with you.

Or you can build something spectacular, something that will last, a "take my money!" business with people who love you, who aspire to own or use your products, people who (even if they could never afford your product) will wear a shirt with your logo on it.

Your call. Do you love us, or do you hate us?

Friday, April 10, 2015

My job situation

So, a quick update.

Some of you have been asking why I'm looking for work and didn't I just start a new role? The answer is a rather simple one and a bit of a bummer. Shortly after my position was eliminated with the company I'd been working with for eight years, a consulting firm company came calling, asked me to take a look at several positions and indicate which one I wanted to be considered for. A few phone calls later, I was placed with a great company. In a previous role, I had actually been a customer of this company in a self-service fashion. The role I found myself in was in their Professional Services group - for people who wanted to use the product but didn't want to operate it themselves. So, I got to work with some big clients and help them be successful with the product. Unfortunately, the company was going through a bit of... I don't want to say turbulence or upheaval... adjustment? maybe... anyhow, the company was in the process of being acquired. I was able to come in and help out, but when the contract term was up, there wasn't an option for them to increase headcount. So, the role is ending soon. It's been a lot of fun, and I'd go back to this company and work with these clients again in a heartbeat, if they'd have me.

But for the moment, I'm back to wondering what my next opportunity will be. I'm trying not to be anxious because I know there are a lot of great opportunities out there and it's just a matter of finding the right one. I'm applying for jobs, reaching out to friends and colleagues and doing a lot of praying. At the same time, I'm working hard to make sure that I finish well, that my successor (an existing employee who's having to transition some of her work to someone else so that she can take on my workload) is equipped to be successful and so that the the great people I worked with at the company and the client and the agency remember me fondly.

And if you, dear reader, can connect me with recruiters, hiring managers or other opportunities you might know of, I'd be quite grateful. And if you're hiring, come find me on LinkedIn. I might be exactly who you're looking for.

Feed Sift (04/10/2015)


HOUZZ.COM -- Slow Down: The (Lost) Art of Laziness


GOOGLEBLOG.BLOGSPOT.COM -- Rethinking office space


ENGADGET.COM -- Sesame Street's executive producer on staying relevant after 46 years


PORCH.COM -- 7 Timeless Kitchen Features That Will Never Go Out of Style


INFORMATIONISBEAUTIFUL.NET -- Common Mythconceptions: World's Most Contagious Falsehoods

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Quick Reads

I have been a bit busy and haven't been posting book reviews. I've still been reading, just haven't gotten reviews done. So here's some quick hits of what I've been reading lately. As always, these are Amazon links. Clicking shows you love me. Or something.

Independent Study: The Testing, Book 2 and Graduation Day: The Testing Trilogy, Book 3 - Book 1 was teens in peril in a dangerous cross-country journey. They made it through alive, so now they're at school. School can't be as dangerous, right? I thought the first book stood well on its own. The second and third books were less necessary and the ending not altogether satisfying. Not like Divergent-bad, but a little too neat a package. I'd recommend book 1, but you can probably be fine treating it as a singology instead of a trilogy.

Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure - In your efforts to eliminate mistakes from your company and its process, beware of zapping all the creativity, of creating a culture or environment where it's impossible for advantageous mistakes to occur. These are the kinds of mistakes that open up new fields or lines of business - the kind of revolutionary jumps that can't occur in a company so focused on careful evolutionary change. I wish there had been more real-world examples, but it was a good book I'd recommend.

Shadow Ops: Breach Zone (Shadow Ops series Book 3) - When I read this one, I didn't realize it was part of a trilogy. It made reference to past events, but it explained them so well that I thought it was just history being covered for us. The book also uses flashbacks to help understand why one of the main characters is the way they are and the past history between the two main characters. New York has been invaded by a non-human army and the book is the efforts to regain control on several fronts - a military tale with elements of magic. I thought the characters and their voices and they way they spoke were distinctive, whether they were military, law enforcement, politicians or ambassadors of a foreign country. This was a rather long book with the good guys under seemingly impossible odds and while a lengthy book, it was engrossing.

The Roar - Humans live behind a wall in the upper part of the northern hemisphere. Overcrowding means that in many places, cities are stacked one on top of the other - the wealthy in gleaming towers while the impoverished below the streets in a second city where flooding is common, mold is ever-present and a regular cause of death. The rest of the planet a wasteland due to the chemicals used to kill all the animals and their habitats after all the animals began attacking humans decades before. The story focuses on a young girl, kidnapped a year prior by a government official and held against her will on an orbiting space station and her brother, the only one in her family who believes she's still alive. A new supplement is introduced at the schools and despite their poverty, an arcade opens where children can learn to fly pod fighters like the ones used in the world's defense program. It's a pretty solid book with a satisfying ending. Don't know if I'll continue in the series or if enough has been resolved for me to go in a different direction.

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality - It hasn't been too long since I read this book, but I don't remember much beyond the title. It's one of those books that is helpful while you're reading it, kind of like a coach kicking your behind and making you get out there and make things happen, but that's about it. I do need one of those coaches, but that's why I put 10X on my wish list for both Kindle and CD.

Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up - It turns out that I never wrote a review on here, but I did write one on Amazon. Here's what I wrote, under the title "Overheard at a Dinner Party": I don't feel I was the audience for this book. I think I would only be the audience if I were sitting between Chan and Bell at a dinner party and Chan was speaking past me in the hopes that Bell would hear him refuting Love Wins. I got the sense reading this that maybe it should be sold with Bell's Love Wins, that I would have gotten more out of it if I had read Love Wins first. With specific regards to hell, I feel like I should have been more compelled or convicted from reading the book, but mostly I just felt "meh."

Accelerando (Singularity) - Blech. None of the stuff described in the two different descriptions of the book happened in the first three chapters that I slogged through. Avoid avoid avoid.

Tunnels (Book 1) - Will Burrows and his dad love to dig (get it, "burrows"?) and explore underground places, be it caves or abandoned tube stations. When his dad goes missing, Will finds clues that allows him to pursue his father to some underground world. Some massive, massive underground world. Some great, vivid writing make it easy to imagine the underground world, but the story itself suffers some construction problems, with characters conveniently coming in and out of the picture as needed. I would recommend it, though, just for the descriptive writing.

Matched - Cassia and her family live in a very North Korea-like state - everything is highly controlled, but life is good because they're told it is and they don't know any better. Until something goes wrong with Cassia's matching. The ceremony is wonderful and in a rare twist, her betrothed is someone from her own school instead of being someone from another school in another part of the country. After the ceremony, she returns home with the (essentially a flash drive) that will tell her more about her betrothed. Only, oddly, a different boy appears briefly on the screen. She's contacted the next day and forced to hand over the flash drive, told that there was some kind of error or anomaly. It's enough, however, to throw her mind into chaos. Opportunities end up presenting themselves, allowing her the opportunity to get to know the other boy more.

Reading right now:
* Inc, April 2015
* I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist
* Before Happiness
* Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?