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Ranjit Mathew
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The main reason I haven't joined a local wine club or "wine connoisseur's list".
 
A wine club as an allegory for the fallacies of economic theory.

So I'm subscribed to this wine club. I'll tell you which one later, but I don't want you to run off and try it without reading this post first. Their shtick is that they send you a "tasting kit" first where you rate a bunch of wines, and then they (supposedly) use the results to send you wines that match your taste profile.

The thing I find amusing is that even after having received several shipments of wine, I have no idea if the service is any good and no apparent way of figuring it out, because:

1. I am clueless about wine. The wine they sent seems fine to me, but I have no idea how it might compare to wine I might be getting anywhere else. I only started drinking alcohol of any sort at age 28 and I only started actually liking wine at all maybe two years ago. About all I know about wine classification is the difference between white and red; I honestly have no idea what the difference is between cabernet, merlot, pinot noir, etc. So I can't judge for myself.

2. Any kind of Google search for opinions produces only useless information:
- Extremely positive reviews which are obviously fake/sponsored/native advertising.
- Non-opinionated reviews by "review sites" which merely factually describe the service without stating any sort of opinion. These appear to be largely content farms that have SEO'd their way into the search result list without providing any useful information of their own.
- Extremely negative comments posted by people who insist that the service is a "SCAM" that charges you for wine you didn't ask for. I am not sure what these people thought a "wine club" was, but I thought the pricing structure was laid out very clearly at every step of the process, and I have not received any surprises. So, I can only conclude that these people are complete idiots who type in their credit card number without reading. Of course, these negative comments also often insist that the wine tasted terrible, but what else would you expect when the person is angry and stupid?

So what am I supposed to conclude?

In economist fantasy-land, a service like this that sent poor-quality wine would go out of business, because the information about wine quality would quickly be disseminated and then everyone would know to avoid it.

In the real world, any useful information on quality is thoroughly lost in the noise created by advertising, content farms, and idiots. The only thing people actually know about this service in advance is that they have this elaborate "tasting kit".

In such a real world, the logical strategy to maximize profit is:
- Advertise specifically to people who are clueless about wine. The "tasting kit" thing helps a lot here -- people who know what they like won't care about this kit, but people who don't will love it.
- Make the tasting kit really elaborate to maximize placebo effect.
- Don't actually pay attention to the kit results at all. Just buy up the cheapest wine you can find, relabel it, and ship it out. Your unsophisticated subscribers won't know the difference.

Economists like to imagine that consumers have perfect information about the products they are buying, and then are able to conclude from this that products will have to be good in order to sell. In reality, all too often, it seems we have not just imperfect information, but in fact utterly useless information. Some people -- especially in the advertising industry -- want to describe advertising as a way to make sure consumers are informed and can make good decisions, but in practice it seems the point of advertising is usually to pollute the information well with outright false information.

On the other hand, the thing that often saves us is another fallacy of economics: In reality, many people aren't motivated purely by money. The most brilliant and effective entrepreneurs are often the ones who take pride in their work, and people who take pride in their work generally don't want to sell a bad product that consumers only buy because they've been tricked. Often I think entrepreneurs actually overestimate the importance of product quality because they want to produce a quality product, and when answering a question like "what business direction will be most successful?" -- where there is no obvious "right" answer -- entrepreneurs will settle on the answer they want to be true. And the answer many of them want to be true is: "We'll make the most money by building a good product, not by swindling people."

Of course, there are plenty of people out there who are in fact happy to swindle people, and a spectrum in between. In the case of the wine club I'm talking about -- "Tasting Room by Lot18" -- I'm inclined to think they lean more towards cynically gaming things for profit... mainly because of their excessive use of native advertising, which I find offensive. But honestly, I don't know, and that's a problem (which we aren't likely to solve any time soon).
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Explore Renaissance Italy from your laptop with the +Getty Museum's newly launched virtual exhibition, on view at: http://goo.gl/Be4nvd

The digital exhibit reunites 100 manuscripts separated by time and geography and complements the physical exhibition "Renaissance Splendors of the Northern Italian Courts" now on view at the Getty Center.
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Great resource if you can't visit HN every day and keep track of all the interesting posts there.
A weekly newsletter of the best articles on startups, technology, programming, and more. All links are curated by hand from the popular Hacker News site.
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Very sad news. :-(
Rob Pike originally shared:
 
I just heard that, after a long illness, Dennis Ritchie (dmr) died at home this weekend. I have no more information.

I trust there are people here who will appreciate the reach of his contributions and mourn his passing appropriately.

He was a quiet and mostly private man, but he was also my friend, colleague, and collaborator, and the world has lost a truly great mind.
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It had to happen eventually. Broken-by-design security. :-(
 
Got suitcases with TSA locks? Those locks just became pure decoration.
The stated goal of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is, in their own words, to “Protect the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom
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From the impression I have of the modern world, I'd guess that their jobs give them barely enough time to take bathroom breaks, let alone have time to rummage through our baggage. :-|
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Yippee!
 
Introducing international voice calls from Hangouts in India

Starting today, the Hangouts app on your phone will help you stay connected with your family and friends around the world in more ways than ever. Now you can make voice calls to phone numbers outside of India on Android (http://goo.gl/75u3GM), iOS (http://goo.gl/Py8Ayb) and the web from Hangouts in Gmail.

It’s always free to call other Hangouts users, it’s free to call numbers in the U.S. and Canada, and the international rates (https://www.google.com/hangouts/rates) are really low. Add credit to your account and the first minute of any call you make to any of the 24 countries listed (see full list here: http://goo.gl/ZYu4XW) will also become free.

On Android, just install Hangouts Dialer (http://goo.gl/75u3GM) to turn on voice calls. On iOS (http://goo.gl/Py8Ayb) and the web, voice calls will be available the next time you open the app.

#Dialer   #Hangouts   #Update   #HangoutsDialer  
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Good one.
Guy Kawasaki originally shared:
 
(Sat01) What I Learned From Steve Jobs

Many people have explained what one can learn from Steve Jobs. But few, if any, of these people have been inside the tent and experienced first hand what it was like to work with him. I don’t want any lessons to be lost or forgotten, so here is my list of the top twelve lessons that I learned from Steve Jobs.

Experts are clueless.

Experts—journalists, analysts, consultants, bankers, and gurus can’t “do” so they “advise.” They can tell you what is wrong with your product, but they cannot make a great one. They can tell you how to sell something, but they cannot sell it themselves. They can tell you how to create great teams, but they only manage a secretary. For example, the experts told us that the two biggest shortcomings of Macintosh in the mid 1980s was the lack of a daisy-wheel printer driver and Lotus 1-2-3; another advice gem from the experts was to buy Compaq. Hear what experts say, but don’t always listen to them.

Customers cannot tell you what they need.

“Apple market research” is an oxymoron. The Apple focus group was the right hemisphere of Steve’s brain talking to the left one. If you ask customers what they want, they will tell you, “Better, faster, and cheaper”—that is, better sameness, not revolutionary change. They can only describe their desires in terms of what they are already using—around the time of the introduction of Macintosh, all people said they wanted was better, faster, and cheaper MS-DOS machines. The richest vein for tech startups is creating the product that you want to use—that’s what Steve and Woz did.

Jump to the next curve.

Big wins happen when you go beyond better sameness. The best daisy-wheel printer companies were introducing new fonts in more sizes. Apple introduced the next curve: laser printing. Think of ice harvesters, ice factories, and refrigerator companies. Ice 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Are you still harvesting ice during the winter from a frozen pond?

The biggest challenges beget best work.

I lived in fear that Steve would tell me that I, or my work, was crap. In public. This fear was a big challenge. Competing with IBM and then Microsoft was a big challenge. Changing the world was a big challenge. I, and Apple employees before me and after me, did their best work because we had to do our best work to meet the big challenges.

Design counts.

Steve drove people nuts with his design demands—some shades of black weren’t black enough. Mere mortals think that black is black, and that a trash can is a trash can. Steve was such a perfectionist—a perfectionist Beyond: Thunderdome—and lo and behold he was right: some people care about design and many people at least sense it. Maybe not everyone, but the important ones.

You can’t go wrong with big graphics and big fonts.

Take a look at Steve’s slides. The font is sixty points. There’s usually one big screenshot or graphic. Look at other tech speaker’s slides—even the ones who have seen Steve in action. The font is eight points, and there are no graphics. So many people say that Steve was the world’s greatest product introduction guy..don’t you wonder why more people don’t copy his style?

Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence.

When Apple first shipped the iPhone there was no such thing as apps. Apps, Steve decreed, were a bad thing because you never know what they could be doing to your phone. Safari web apps were the way to go until six months later when Steve decided, or someone convinced Steve, that apps were the way to go—but of course. Duh! Apple came a long way in a short time from Safari web apps to “there’s an app for that.”

“Value” is different from “price.”

Woe unto you if you decide everything based on price. Even more woe unto you if you compete solely on price. Price is not all that matters—what is important, at least to some people, is value. And value takes into account training, support, and the intrinsic joy of using the best tool that’s made. It’s pretty safe to say that no one buys Apple products because of their low price.

A players hire A+ players.

Actually, Steve believed that A players hire A players—that is people who are as good as they are. I refined this slightly—my theory is that A players hire people even better than themselves. It’s clear, though, that B players hire C players so they can feel superior to them, and C players hire D players. If you start hiring B players, expect what Steve called “the bozo explosion” to happen in your organization.

Real CEOs demo.

Steve Jobs could demo a pod, pad, phone, and Mac two to three times a year with millions of people watching, why is it that many CEOs call upon their vice-president of engineering to do a product demo? Maybe it’s to show that there’s a team effort in play. Maybe. It’s more likely that the CEO doesn’t understand what his/her company is making well enough to explain it. How pathetic is that?

Real CEOs ship.

For all his perfectionism, Steve could ship. Maybe the product wasn’t perfect every time, but it was almost always great enough to go. The lesson is that Steve wasn’t tinkering for the sake of tinkering—he had a goal: shipping and achieving worldwide domination of existing markets or creation of new markets. Apple is an engineering-centric company, not a research-centric one. Which would you rather be: Apple or Xerox PARC?

Marketing boils down to providing unique value.

Think of a 2 x 2 matrix. The vertical axis measures how your product differs from the competition. The horizontal axis measures the value of your product. Bottom right: valuable but not unique—you’ll have to compete on price. Top left: unique but not valuable—you’ll own a market that doesn’t exist. Bottom left: not unique and not value—you’re a bozo. Top right: unique and valuable—this is where you make margin, money, and history. For example, the iPod was unique and valuable because it was the only way to legally, inexpensively, and easily download music from the six biggest record labels.

Bonus: Some things need to be believed to be seen. When you are jumping curves, defying/ignoring the experts, facing off against big challenges, obsessing about design, and focusing on unique value, you will need to convince people to believe in what you are doing in order to see your efforts come to fruition. People needed to believe in Macintosh to see it become real. Ditto for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Not everyone will believe—that’s okay. But the starting point of changing the world is changing a few minds. This is the greatest lesson of all that I learned from Steve.
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