In the future, everybody will own a personal pick-up drone

800px-Predator_Drone_021While there are a few companies that have talked about having drone based delivery services, it’s in the consumer’s best interest to own a pick-up drone instead of having to rely on the delivery service of another company. Today, we all own cars. Some of us also own bicycles, so we have multiple modes of transportation. Some for their own brand of utility.

We also have multiple computers per person right now, some used for one task, like writing, and others used for phone calls, like my iPhone. Still we have Google Glass and other computers that we might wear elsewhere on our bodies, or sensors. Cheaper, more convenient ways of stitching together a more comfortable, simple existence are part of the evolution of modern society.

The control over our environment first started with thermostats will finish with the kind of background, convenient automated feeds and streams of data that flow into purchase decisions that happen in the background of our lives. Sure, we’ll still customize things but based on those preferences, we’ll save so much time managing our lives…the future will be an awesome place with so many robots at our beck and call.

Where’s my tweeting fridge???

450px-LG_refrigerator-editIt’s CES right now, apparently. What I want to know is, where the bleep is my tweeting fridge? Twitter’s now public, right? So shouldn’t my fridge be tweeting, “Yo, Jeremy needs milk!”

After my Samsung fridge tweets my grocery needs, I want my Samsung car to drive *itself* to the store, pick up my bag, and then drive itself back home. I want my Honda Asimo to pick up the groceries, put them away, and my Roomba to start cleaning my floor.

Then after my Samsung car drives me back home (while I catch up on reading the latest Jay Williams story), I want my Nike Fuelband to start uploading how few calories my desk job burned to the cloud.

Oh, yes. It’s CES and I’m already bored.

Fun fact: the quote about, “The future is here. It’s just unevenly distributed,” is so accurate it’s scary. Ever wonder why it’s becoming so unevenly distributed in the USA? ;)

Another quote. “Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.”

Once my fridge can help me out with those quotes, it’s game over. Call me Neo and plug me in.

Update to this: after more consideration, a scenario that I can easily see happening is the following. I have a personal drone for running errands, after Amazon said that 90% of the items they send are less than five pounds, I was thinking. I could get a lot of shopping done, “One off,” for convenience and always get very fresh items from places around my area if I had a personal pick-up drone. Then I realized, the tweeting fridge was really just sending push notifications to my pick-up drone, which then flew out, armed with a wifi integration into my bank or credit cards, picks up items based on a scan of my fridge and recipes I’ve used.

This picture means that the fridge acts to scan a feed from a Google, Amazon, Walmart, Whole Foods, Sprouts or similar with offers and discounts on things I’ve bought. Each part of my living space would be equipped with sensors, integrated into a new, “Home OS,” that also included a feed from the bathroom to the bedroom. This would ensure you’d be on top of your health, fully quantified, as well as your energy bills and more. Spending would be optimized as you could link multiple stores and the drone pick up done round robin to ensure you spent the least on items you purchase on a regular basis.

Similar to how we have the computer fragmentation today, personal assistant and robots will fragment into a series of specialized machines. The roomba for the floor, the drone for the groceries, the intelligent car for larger items and personal transportation, the Nest for the heating and cooling bill, the crap feed for the bathroom and more. It would be dozens of large corporations with access to various, “Life streams,” of data about each of us. If this sounds creepy, we’re already there with TransUnion, Experian and other data providers. The hope is that you have privacy settings in this future state, where you can control which companies get what access to your data and how it’s shared.

 

How Microsoft Can Enable Yahoo To Win At Mobile Search & Help Apple

There was a rumor from one of the CEO candidates for Microsoft recently. The idea was floated that, perhaps, they could sell Bing to somebody else and then start to pare down the Microsoft business to enable some growth. To me personally, this is like their strategic decision to invest late into Facebook and forge such a deep relationship. As a company, it was one of their best, long term investments ever. The investment thesis behind grabbing that Facebook stake was the same one that now should prevail them to dislodge the search business.

Yahoo has a history with search (and for a while, I played a tiny role in a much larger play), which Marissa also shares, having been the, “Search girl,” at Google. Microsoft has put their money into the full stack competition on the consumer side and to do that, they’ve made very strategic moves already, from the Barnes & Noble Nook deal to the Surface to the Nokia move, Microsoft is very, very serious about hardware. This ensures that they have a foothold, a front door, to complement their Enterprise position and their other consumer front door, which is the Xbox.

Microsoft has a lot of strong brands and to ensure a better focus on their core business, pushing search back into Yahoo’s hands is a no brainer. Apple would love an alternative that could replace Google, and with that distribution deal plus MIcrosoft, Yahoo would be in a position to own the majority of the mobile search market. The only player without a bone in the hardware game, Samsung, LG and others would have to give the Yahoo deal serious consideration. Firefox OS, too, as well as their desktop business, could follow if the economics were right.

Given so many players would give it real consideration, I predict this is one of the most exciting moves that could happen in the digital space for the next five to ten years. By taking mobile search, Yahoo could fund and fuel the kind of disruptive, future and forward thinking that Google’s, “Ten-x,” projects do. The market has seen this movie a few times, and with better search also comes better logistics.

The future state could see Yahoo algorithms generated from advanced search personalization also enabling, “Same day,” goods transfer for both Craigslist and ebay. This would rival the Amazon, Google, Walmart strategies against the same, “Glue,” between online and offline commerce.

There’s a lot more to write on this topic, but for me personally, I’d love to see the whole corporate theater play out this way. As the only player with search scale that doesn’t have a hardware strategy, Apple, in their, “Thermo-nuclear,” option would certainly want this to succeed. Between those two corporate investments if needed, Yahoo could plow any amount of money, talent and perks to creating the very best discovery engine online. Their China position, coupled with a partnership in Yandex, could give Google a very real, serious global competitor. It might never be that Yahoo owned both mobile and desktop but for any viewing experience, the company would be in a position to own the syntatic glue that put everything together.

After giving this scenario serious thought over the past few weeks, since I first saw the potential Microsoft CEO saying that they’d consider selling Bing, this scenario has been slowly percolating in the back of my mind. I love the ideas and would enjoy seeing a Google competitor for search. Advertisers would also tremendously benefit at the size and scale of the new Yahoo’s reach and return on ad spend.

Offline data, in the form of mobile search, would be a huge asset to the company as they engage in more and more mobile search. After being able to target with such rich meta-data, their capabilities could potentially be first, at least with mobile, of any ad platform.

New category: food and a few notes about why I’m adding it here

Not tonight but soon, I’ll be filling up the food category with some of my adventures in cookery over the last year. There are a few reasons for adding the category and I’ll be editing the others to reflect my new goals for this, my professional blog. The people who work with me (Hi!) know that one thing I’m very interested in is food. Not somebody else’s food but the act of preparing, delighting and inspiring people in your life with delicious, healthy meals that serenade the taste buds and inspire the imagination.

So, by the weekend, I’ll add the videos I have from youtube and a few photos (with the photographer’s permission, b/c their pics are a lot nicer than mine and I don’t have a picture of every recipe I’ve made).

Have a great week :)

What I’ve learned over ten years of A/B testing

File:Animal testing 5.jpgThere are a ton of tools that enable A/B and multivariate testing these days. Optimost, Optimizely, SiteSpect, Monetate, Adobe Digital Experience Manager, Web Trends, Google Experiments (formerly Google Website Optimizer) and more. There are generally speaking two classes of A/B testing software:

  • Client side testing tools
    • Optimizely, Monetate and others fall into this category.
  • Server side testing tools
    • Sitespect is the only purely server side testing tool I’m aware of.
  • Hybrid tools that can be used client and or server side
    • Web Trends, Google Experiments

The first time I heard of A/B testing was working at Quinstreet. Being new to digital marketing in the way they approached things, beyond just SEO, paid search, I learned a ton there back in 2002 – 2003. Being the first internal marketing manager on paid and free search was a blast. However, I ended up designing a lot of the websites I promoted myself, which was no fun (aside from the obvious – I love good design, but it’s not in my skill set to produce it).

So after a while, I wanted the sites to get redone. Traffic was flowing, the leads were pouring in…however, because Quinstreet had a testing oriented culture (very, very rare back in those days) they wanted to validate before pouring design resources against something that might have a negative return. However, that was a roadblock as my sites were all hosted externally and the servers were not capable of running java. They were straight laced apache web server, without an extra application server layer to be found.

What was a novice internet marketer to do, when he knew his conversion rates were lower than they should be due to the design and experience quality on the site? Testing to the rescue. I partnered with the engineering team and learned the basic mechanics of A/B testing. Then after about a week, I had a Perl script (yes, I know – remember, PHP wasn’t so popular back then) running which would, depending on cookie, serve either the, “A,” or, “B,” version of the site. After getting everything up and running, we started the test…guess what the results were?

30% higher conversion rate. Same traffic sources, slightly lower CTR on the primary call to action but a massive win in conversion rate. The call to action was a link to an affiliate, lead capture form so the experience of jumping from one site to the next had a big impact on conversion. See, when you have a high quality experience on a site and then move to another site of similarly quality experience, things make sense. But if you jump from a bad site to a good site, you notice the impact and it’s jarring.

Interestingly, when I arrived at Yahoo in 2004, the “launch, learn and tune,” culture was still being rolled out across the company. They had two testing platforms while I was there (guessing they have one now) and many properties had yet to fully embrace testing to improve conversion rates.

So what did I learn from all this testing? A few highlights:

  • User experience, even without a single word of copy changed, can have a massive impact on conversion
  • Sometimes when things are important, you have to roll up your sleeves to get the job done
  • Test what people notice – ignore things that people won’t pay attention to

Years later, I was involved with testing at another company. We did several distinct tests, each one to validate that footer changes wouldn’t have an impact on conversion. The results? Go nuts, do whatever you want in the footer. A prospect who’s in, “Buying mode,” won’t scroll to the bottom of the page and investigate their options. Only somebody in desperate need of help will do that, a journalist or somebody out shopping the competition.

I have a lot more testing experience from my social network, business consulting and of course, Intuit. Their culture was all about A/B/C and multivariate testing, which was fantastic. Some of the insights the team put together which drove big wins were very clever and had nothing to do with design, only prospect insights. Small changes in verbiage, based on a thorough understanding of the problem, can sometimes pay off in a huge way.

Time is the one thing everybody could use more of

About a week and a half ago, I looked through the, “New app,” list on my iPhone. More than half the apps said, “Faster,” as if that was the only thing that mattered, or that it was enough in isolation to get me to download. Back in 2005, I met the performance guru, Steve Souders. He was a fellow Yahoo and I walked away from the meeting confused. Fast forward a few years, I used his teaching to improve bounce rates by more than 10% on the fastest growing social network in 2009, behind Twitter. Given that they just filed for IPO, it wasn’t a bad place to be.

Time is precious. None of us know how much we have, none of us know how much remains. The one thing that’s certain is that everyone of us has tasks throughout the day. Things we need to do, stuff we must accomplish, potentially work that needs to be done. If each one of those things on our, “Must do,” list took 10% less time, who among us would complain? Nobody I know.

There are many parts of life that are on the clock. In public, I never disclose things that are too personal, that hit too close to home. Time is precious and I want to enjoy as much of it, with friends, with family, with people who inspire me.

As we cruise into the season of shorter days, family gatherings and good food, I know I’m going to enjoy every moment of my family.

Now available: Sick Jokes: Part I on Amazon, a Jay Williams Short

It’s been more than two years since I first wrote a story and published it on Amazon. A lot in my life has changed and for the bulk of this year, I wasn’t writing fiction. Under an alias, under my name…at all. Distracted and wasting time, I finally made a friend who put their well meaning foot where it needed to go.

A little history: Jay Williams is the star of, “The Vampire Hangover,” which probably needs editing and a new title at some point. There are a few authors I have really enjoyed reading and once finished, Sick Jokes, I hope, would gladly find it’s way into the hearts and minds of the fanbase of those guys. Yes, I’m being vague but I’d rather not influence overmuch what you think of my work. If you find it similar to others, I’m curious who. If you find it bad, good or indifferent, I’d like to know.

When I have time, I’m already at work on Sick Jokes, Part II. Over the weekend, I’m going to setup a mailing list so anybody who wants can get the second installment, free, as an early release. It’s my way of saying, “Thanks,” for having faith in me and enjoying the first episode. It is a whole novel I’m writing, I just wanted to release it in chunks, both to entertain people who are impatient and to give myself an easier target to hit than waiting two months before releasing anything.

Perhaps I’m the only impatient reader out there, but, I think buying a short for $2.99, then getting the rest of the novel, as it gets published, for free would be a pretty awesome deal…and there are a list of authors who I’d LOVE to buy from if they tried out this method.

It’s available here, Sick Jokes Part I.

More foundation: my first cooking show on youtube ;)

Beta feedback received (thanks, all) and even though one for two did not like it, she gave me a *fantastic* idea for a scene in the next installment. Spell check tonight and then I’ll let it fly…still need a title though. Today, it’ll be there, in the back of my mind, something I’m mulling over.

There will be more videos, too. As I realized recently, writers never, ever finish up with groupies. Nor paparazzi. If you’re reading this with some kind of political agenda, from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely wish you the ending you so richly deserve. Having experienced the, “Dark side,” of celebrity for a while, the social media hate, the colleagues asking, “Did you see this on twitter?”, having to explain to more than a few people why it happens, what it means.

Even before this, from my consulting business, I learned the hard way – you can’t bring a lawsuit across national borders. So, while other people can do what they will, it’s up to me to build, solidify and grow my reputation. If I become known as the ninja vampire hunting writer of epic cheesiness, well, that’s not far off from me in my personal life. Minus the ninjas and vampires of course. Professionally speaking, any given company could use more cheese.

Kick back and enjoy the video if you want some tips on making a solid breakfast (though for me, this was brunch – I can’t pack away that much food first thing in the AM.

How to make a mushroom and sausage scramble video

Next month, as a few people have reminded me, is national novel writing month. My first full length novel will be available by then (knock on wood) because it’s the kind of synergistic, universal alignment kick in the pants I can only ignore at my peril.

Have an awesome Tuesday ;)

Yahoo Mail redesign – well done team

I use Gmail and Yahoo Mail, both. After the latest refresh on Yahoo Mail, I have to say, it’s the best working product I’ve seen from my former team in years. The oddpost acquisition a long time ago put them on the path they’ve been on and now, with the refresh, I have to say it’s far more usable. Fun, too.

Gmail isn’t fun. It’s functional and there’s a massive difference. Sometimes, when you use a product, you want to have fun. Be entertained. At the core of Google is utility (at least, it has always felt that way to me, but I’ve never worked there). Yahoo’s aspiration, I felt before, during and after working there, was to entertain. Sure, Google bought Youtube…but those two brands, despite it being the same corporate entity, aren’t synonymous in most people’s heads. There’s a reason Google did not rebrand it as, “Google Video.”

The silly exclamation mark, the logo experimentation in public…so far in my post Yahoo career, it seems that they finally have a better grasp as a whole team of what to do, where to go and what they need to achieve. It’s impressive. The Carol Bartz days made me cringe, personally. Then the guy who they tossed with the fictional resume…

…I might write vampire stories but I know that those are based on lies, for lack of a better term. Vampires, djinni’s, glowing magical swords and the like are not real. Just trust me on that one.

If they can start to turn the opinion of a “Silicon Valley cynic,” like me…they’re definitely doing something right.

Inequality, social justice and my long radio silence

It’s not often I feel like somebody I know, or knew, is a hero. Today, I was browsing LinkedIn while trying to figure out the right last leg of a new story; I saw a link that was powerful, inspirational and exactly what more people need to share. The odd part? It was shared by one of the one percent, who typically aren’t lobbying to improve the inequality of the United States.

I don’t know Jeff well, I’ve chatted with him in person all of once and been in meetings with him perhaps a few times, heard him speak less than that. However, seeing his post today in my LinkedIn feed reminded me of how fortunate I am to have known, at least for a short while, a guy who has the vision to dream a brighter, better future and the courage to take the steps to move society at large towards that vision.

Check out this trailer, see the statistics and try to wrap your head around the problem in the United States as it stands today.

Unfortunately, I grew up relatively poor and the lessons you learn growing up, for the most part, in the socio-economic status that I did are not the same ones you learn growing up in an affluent home. It’s taken years, a lot of studying outside of school and self reflection to figure out the gap between my education and understanding. While I’ve been spending my time learning, studying, connecting…I haven’t been sharing, at least, not as, “Me.” A few friends know of my other blog, which now has as large an audience as this. But…that one is personal, this one, is business.

In a business sense, in terms of how things are run and yes, I’ve done this myself to my chagrin, something is very, very wrong with the way most companies operate. The way compensation gets structured and the way that wealth is shared in our society. It’s heartwarming to see an executive with the influence, the vision and the ability of Jeff to share something so near and dear to the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans.

On the eve of a, “Government shutdown,” when some jackass politician wasted our money by reciting, “Green Eggs and Ham,” it’s gratifying to see, to hear, a billionaire say that something is fundamentally wrong and that we need to fix it, as a society.