Rocket Bomber - snark

Amazon Healthcare

filed under , 13 October 2014, 23:05 by

Here’s a thing:


“I want Amazon to run healthcare instead of selling books: customer focused, zero profits, ruthlessly driving down costs, single provider”

Amazon is disrupting an entire industry (at least one — but they started with books) and by-and-large everyone agrees that even if some suppliers are hurt, Amazon’s efforts have resulted in something amazing: readers love it, a whole new class of authors love it, books are bought-sold-read-enjoyed-and-discussed in unprecedented volume and the relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction while ignoring profits (actually: reinvesting all profits in better customer outcomes) has vaulted an out-of-the-garage startup into a $122 Billion behemoth that controls either/both 41% or 67% of the market (print- and e-) in 20 short years.

Amazon, like Wal-mart, also aggressively negotiates with suppliers (publishers, in the case of Amazon) to squeeze out anything but survival margins and actively innovates to open new markets and find new ways to satisfy their customers.

I personally feel Amazon is *at least* 49% evil even if they aren’t entirely evil but I’m in the minority on that. But now I’m asking:

If Amazon is so very, very good for customers, a business to be admired and emulated, and a model for how disruption of established industries can only be good for customers

… then where is the Amazon for health care?

Why is there no push for a single-source, nationwide health care provider that would muscle both the insurers and the pharmaceutical companies to stop sucking people dry in the name of profits, and provide comprehensive health care that focuses on customers and outcomes, not the status quo and “you can keep your plan”?

Your plan sucks. My plan sucks. The whole health care mess is ripe, overripe, for disruption on the scale that Amazon has foisted upon an unsuspecting book industry.

The famous quote is “Your margin is my opportunity“. Other than higher education (and college loans are another rant) there is no other industry with fatter margins than healthcare. Amazon’s predatory tactics — excuse me, ‘innovations’ — are given a huge thumbs-up by the Dept. of Justice [“nope nope no threat of monopoly here”] so let’s let Amazon loose on an industry that actually needs a shakeup.

Disclaimer: I personally believe in government supplied, single-payer healthcare – “medicare for everyone”. Which you probably already guessed. That said, I’m also 100% for an ‘Amazon’ Healthcare system where a private company borrows billions — and gets a free pass from Wall Street for at least five years — to provide customer-driven health outcomes at lowest cost, with delivery anywhere, and focused not on what the suppliers have predetermined the market wants but instead is open to actual demand as determined by what customers are asking for.

I invite comments: if Amazon is such a great business model, why in the hell don’t we have Amazon healthcare yet?



Content Laundering

filed under , 10 May 2014, 14:30 by

Perhaps understandably (as a blogger, etc and et al.), I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently on the value of a link, and a share, and how this ‘economy’ of attention is actually running:

How often have you seen something shared via Tumblr or Reddit, and laughed, and maybe tweeted a link (or reflex-reblogged to your own tumblr) and then, after the quick grin or chuckle, forgotten about it?


[source: Wikimedia Commons – original image cropped]

Happens a dozen times a day, or more, per person. It’s a common behavior (habit, even) for a significant fraction of the 2 Billion or so internet users — if you’re reading this blog, then yes: both you and I do it.

But then a few days or a week later, you see the same thing posted to a different blog. You know you saw it first, but here it is again in a buzzfeed list, or as unattributed art on someone’s facebook. As it turns out: we all kinda-sorta all like the same things. It’s why some content is referred to as ‘viral’ — not just that it spreads fast, but that it gets spread from hand-to-hand and via many channels. When a meme or a trend really blows up, well a month later or so the video makes an appearance on some local affiliate or cable TV news.

But who gets the credit?

  • The original creator? Sure, with luck.
  • The ‘first share’? The person who found the ‘neat thing’ (whatever it is) and gave it the initial signal boost? – no, that’s usually lost (long lost) by the time *I* see something (your experience may be different)
  • The professional sharer? We all have our favorite aggregators, some of which specialize in funny — but even a “serious” site can’t resist the temptation to share the best grinners, especially if they’re on-topic (or just that great, seriously, I mean click this link and go see cats being catlike)
  • Buzzfeed?
  • Facebook?

Hell, if it’s really good: about six months from now you’ll see it again via email from that one friend/relative who’s been sharing stale crap for years now – and thinks they’re a comedic genius for doing so. (Bad pixellated scans of newspaper-clipped one panel comics from the 80s? Re: RE: RE: re: FWD: Re: FWD: FWD: FWD:? Oh, hell yeah.)

Should we be worried about the provenance of our cat videos? No. And obviously, even in internet terms, a week or two isn’t really old.

But it seems like a small but loud portion of the internet is concerned with “credit” — and I have to put credit in quotes because it’s not a matter of creating content but rather who saw, and shared, it first. On tumblr, folks take an already funny TV show, pull out a flapping-mouth gif with the punchline as the caption, and then in all seriousness tag it, #mygif. Sure, the process of making gifs is non-trivial, but what part of that is yours, dear tumblerite? The original script? The performance of the actor? The copyright already owned by the broadcaster or production company?

I’ve noted this on tumblr because the .gif (however one pronounces it) is endemic (though not original) to that platform. 4chan, being older, is about static images (which have evolved into over-recycled jpgs with the ubiquitous allcaps impact-typeface captions that range from obvious to unfunny — the meme meme is stale) (which is why the reaction gif is taking over, I’m thinking) — reddit is about links (often a link to reddit-fellow-traveller imgur, where the meme or gif actually lives, but still a link means you have to craft a witty text headline — making reddit the spiritual successor of fark, even if most redditors are too young, perhaps, to be aware of venerable-in-internet-terms Fark.com) — twitter, to its credit, seems to favor the snappy one-liner or self-contained joke. OK, let me check and make sure all my parenthesis are closed…

So anyway, following the success of the social sharing platforms, along comes the opportunist — companies that take the same shared content, slap a bunch of ads all over the page, make our fun into their ‘product’ — and kinda spoil the whole thing.

Read this, from Rachel Dukes at mixtape comics : “After a discussion last week with several of my cartoonist peers (and at the behest of Steve Bissette): I want to talk about image theft and uncredited content on social media.”

When we talk about credit, what we really should be concerned about is authorship: who actually created the content that drives everything else. In the case of 4chan-originated memes, the point is moot (yes, pun intended) as everyone on the ‘chans is pointedly anonymous — that’s part of the joke, and the ‘charm’. Casual sharing is usually the same: “Ha! lemme link that…” – I don’t know and don’t care if you’ve actually clicked the link after I share it, because my interaction with the content was all of a minute (at most) and I’ve already moved on to something else.

But when you take art and ‘file off the serial number’ to post without attribution, that’s more than ‘kind of’ wrong (see: http://www.tumblr.com/search/art+theft ). Some sites out there steal content wholesale, in some cases using RSS feeds to scrape-and-repost carefully crafted articles in real time — several reviewers in my larger internet circles have seen this happen (and in the case of reviews: an already-minuscule income-trickle from affiliate links can disappear, as your intended audience is siphoned away without even knowing they’ve been re-directed).


[source: Wikimedia Commons]

There is little enough creative activity taking place [google “the death of originality”] but even in a post-internet world when the remix, mash-up, and photoshop have evolved into their own artforms, we need to take a half second to think about being responsible, and then take a half minute to cite sources.

I really meant this as a condemnation of laziness, as opposed to a call for action: I know all of my readers are responsible netizens. The lesson needs to be directed to the uncaring and thoughtless sharing masses who do this on a small scale (microscopic scale) just one mistake at a time — and the real umbrage should be targeted at the nefarious opportunists doing this on a huge scale for profit.

One step at a time, though; and change begins at home/we must become the change we want to see in the world/“I’m starting with the man in the mirror”. *



Don't Stop... Be-lieee-vin'...

filed under , 2 April 2014, 18:48 by

This is another in-fill post, as the links and embeds below were shared on my Twitter ages ago (…it was January) but I was reminded of very important PBS documentary because—like two of the videos I linked to on Sunday—the video is not on YouTube, not for free, anyway.

Wikipedia Wisdom:

“In the summer of 2007, Journey began searching for a new lead singer. After Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon found videos of Jeremey Hunsicker performing with his Journey tribute band Frontiers on YouTube, they made a last minute decision to fly across the country to Charlotte, North Carolina to watch Hunsicker perform. After the show, Schon and Cain approached Hunsicker and invited him to fly out to California and audition for the position as lead vocalist for Journey. Hunsicker rehearsed with the band and they wrote songs together for the band’s upcoming album Revelation. Ultimately things did not work out between Journey and Hunsicker. Although he did not become the new singer for the band Hunsicker did receive credit for helping to write the song ‘Never Walk Away’ which was the leading track on the album Revelation.

“In December 2007, Journey hired Filipino singer Arnel Pineda of the cover band The Zoo after Neal Schon saw him on YouTube singing covers of Journey songs. Their next album, Revelation, debuted at No.5 on the Billboard charts, selling more than 196,000 units in its first two weeks and staying in the top 20 for 6 weeks. Journey also found success on billboard’s adult contemporary chart where the single ‘After All These Years’ spent over 23 weeks, peaking at number 9. Receipts from the 2008 tour made Journey one of the top grossing concert tours of the year, bringing in over $35,000,000. On December 18, 2008, Revelation was certified platinum by RIAA. The band’s second album with Pineda, Eclipse, was released on May 24, 2011, and debuted at No.13 on the Billboard 200 chart. In November, 2011, Journey released their second greatest hits compilation titled Journey: Greatest Hits: Volume 2 which features songs picked by former frontman Steve Perry.

“Although Pineda was not the first foreign national to become a member of Journey (former drummer Aynsley Dunbar is British), nor even the first non-white (former bass player Randy Jackson is black), the transition resulted in what Marin Independent Journal writer Paul Liberatore called ‘an undercurrent of racism among some Journey fans.’ Keyboardist Jonathan Cain responded to such sentiments: ‘We’ve become a world band. We’re international now. We’re not about one color.’

“In 2012 the TriBeCa Film Festival premiered a Documentary titled Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, directed by Ramona A. Diaz. The documentary tells the story of how Journey found lead singer, Arnel Pineda, and follows the band on the road for a year.”
[/wikipedia]

Trailer:

see also: clip 1 | clip 2 | clip 3

The actual film is not on YouTube (except as a rental/purchase) but I’m sure you can find the links to your retailer-slash-internet-overlord-of-choice so I won’t bother — what is on YouTube is the filmmaker Q&A that followed the screening at the TriBeCa Film Festival [in two parts] and the band’s appearances on CBS Sunday Morning:



One blogger was harmed in the making of this post.

filed under , 27 January 2014, 16:32 by
YouTube Doubler

Saw the video on the right over on Tested – thought it could use a soundtrack, played around a little bit with YouTube Doubler and so.

Here’s a link to share:
http://youtubedoubler.com/by1o

(one blogger was harmed in the making of this post following multiple exposures to Celine Dion without proper auditory precautions.)



Marketing gimmicks, scams, and psychology

filed under , 26 January 2014, 21:55 by

First:

Do Not – *DO NOT* – spend any money with either of these turkeys. That’s not why I’m providing the links. There is no affiliate kickback, I’m not advocating either product, and I’m hesitant to directly link to either site because, you know, spam.

But what beautiful spam:

https://www.crisiseducation.com/landing/reports/4foot-farm-blueprint/video/

  • “this video may disappear”
  • “sneaky”, “simple food secrets”, “ancient, but with this special twist”
  • Just enough truth.
  • boogeymen: not just the gov’t (described as and conflated with “Washington”) but also Monsanto. dude.
  • “I’ve uncovered the secret”
  • Personalizing the pitch – “Sam McCoy” introduces himself, and he’s a down-home guy just like you. (from Texas!)
  • “I’ve cut out all the junk and theory” – you mean, the science?
  • “over 206 hours of research and writing” – oh, really? 3 whole weeks of reading? Why did I waste time at college.
  • “7 measly dollars” – wait, who uses ‘measly’ as a word anymore? I bet more than 206 hours of research went into the use of that adjective.
  • “no fluff and no BS” – except the sales pitch, you mean.

The damn thing is a syllabus for a course on psychology in advertising. I could almost do an hour lecture on each slide in the deck, not to mention the delivery.

But wait, there’s more! [sorry, couldn’t help myself.]

I was looking for a way to link/embed this caustic lump without actually benefiting the shill, so I right clicked on the vid; amazingly, the scammer site uses a plug-in video tool and clicking through led me to another 6 minute sales pitch:

http://easyvideosuite.com/launch/

  • oooo… bonus points for an announcer with a Brit accent. (not posh Brit but working-man Brit but I doubt any American can tell you the difference)
  • “This saves you time and will easily integrate to Make You Money”
  • “save hours when you use the platform”
  • oh boy, “online and mobile” – not one but both buzzwords!

These are both so polished, I have to ask: Who is writing these delicious scripts? Does the pitch writer have a website, where I can watch a six minute video on how their “expert team” can “distill your thoughts into a simple, but compelling presentation” “guaranteed to get you both the links, and the sales, you deserve”?

Once again, if you visit either site above (for education or edification) please DO NOT BUY OR SIGN UP FOR ANYTHING. But damn, what a work of art. Appreciate them ironically. Haul out your bingo cards and start clicking off boxes.



Rocket Bomber Special: 2013 Holiday Gift Guide!

filed under , 29 November 2013, 09:27 by

PLEASE do me a favor: DON'T pick out any gifts for your loved ones. Don't buy the book you know they'll love, DON'T get that one gadget you know they've been droping hints about for the last six months, DON'T even bother with gift cards.

You’re going to pick wrong.

I absolutely guarantee you’re going to pick wrong — just like you did last year, just like you’ve done for many, many years. Everyone has just been too polite to say anything.

And then I have to spend days of my life, after the holidays, doing nothing but processing returns. At least once an hour I’ll be asked, “Can’t I just get cash back?”

And sadly, the answer is no.

So let’s all agree: The Perfect Gift Is an Envelope Full of Cash.

I’d love to get cash. Anyone aged 14-28 would definitely prefer cash. Do a gut check: what do you want? Sure, that surprise gift, the exact right thing is great when it comes from the one person in your life (spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend) but for everyone else?

I say: If you’re not sleeping with them, they just get cash.


[If you are sleeping with them, this seems appropriate]

Imagine the time you’ll save. Imagine the lack of stress. If you think cash is too impersonal, put the cash envelope inside of a tin of home-made cookies. That would be fantastic because, c’mon, *cookies* (AND cash!) That would be a holiday gift I’d be talking about for decades. The folks in the retirement home will be sick of hearing about it.


[cash is even traditional in some cultures]

So do yourself a favor. Do your loved ones a favor. Most Importantly, take the pressure and the hassle away from the poor retail clerks who have to process all those damn returns for clothes and other crap gifts: Just give cash this holiday.

Thank you for you time and polite consideration. And I’ll be back in 2014 to repeat this message in RocketBomber’s next Holiday Gift Guide!

##

image credits:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/beglen/157929769/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashevillein/2421648773/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/10899777@N02/1250836095/



Being an 'object lesson' shouldn't be a point of pride.

filed under , 10 November 2013, 13:39 by

[blockquote]
“Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, in touting Portland’s growth and development acumen, said Wednesday the region needs to continue to avoid the kind of sprawl that has plagued other American cities.

“Take Atlanta, for instance.

“‘Atlanta’s a mess,’ Hales said during Wednesday’s Portland Business Journal Power Breakfast. ‘Sorry, but Atlanta’s planned so poorly, it’ll take generations to change the shape of the place.’

“Hales was responding to a question about whether Portland’s penchant for transit-oriented development would translate to other places, including, hypothetically, Atlanta.”[/blockquote]

http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/2013/09/hales-lets-avoid-atlanta—and-dc.html?ana=twt

##

So, so true. And the city can’t really do anything in the infrastructure-improvement line until they finish fixing the century-plus-old sewer system — which they’ve been working on for decades.

Atlanta sucks. I know, I live here.

Atlanta differs from some other cities in that it experienced the greatest growth after widespread adoption of the automobile. The city mostly missed out on early (pre-1920) transit development — and the little we had was scrapped — the metro area was defined by the building of the interstates (I-75, I-85, and I-20) in the 1950s, then locked into its current configuration with the opening of the I-285 Perimeter loop in 1969. (While the I-285 Perimeter was meant as a bypass around Atlanta, it soon became a magnet for its own sprawl, spawning numerous edge cities, especially along the northern arc.)

Atlanta, like Houston, is a poster-child for sprawl, car-focused urban planning, and widespread general dumb-f*ckery when it comes to regional cooperation — about the only thing the smaller municipalities and neighboring counties can agree on is that no way in hell will Atlanta’s transit system, MARTA, be allowed to expand any further. And that is, dare I say, because of lingering racism and for no other reason. (Economic growth, reduced car traffic and pollution, and providing this essential service for their own constituents be damned.)

Needless to say, I have some strong opinions on this matter and the prevailing stupidity of local governments — there are more than 100 city and county governments; less than 1 person in 10 who lives in “Atlanta” actually lives within the city limits of Atlanta. The state government seems unwilling to provide leadership; the assorted regional commissions set up for transportation, planning, and “cooperation” are toothless.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales lives on the other side of the country, and even from 2500 miles away, our problems are obvious. Well, “obvious” unless you’re a local Atlanta-area politician.

Being an ‘object lesson’ for poor urban planning shouldn’t be a point of civic pride.



Focus, Passion, Knowledge, Application - and local applications

filed under , 17 October 2013, 22:55 by

As I personally experience epic changes, the blog will of course reflect that.

For the past five years and more, I’ve been focused (more or less) on bookstores, and bookselling, and books.

I love books. Books are my personal friends. That will not change, and will not ever change.

My passion for books—and bookstores—will not change no matter what my employment.

My willingness to provide free advice to corporate booksellers: things they might be doing, or trying, or changing? Well, that ends today. No More Freebies. However, as I explore the expanded issues of urban renewal, repurposing old spaces for new uses, gentrification, building both walkable retail districts and walkable multi-use neighborhoods, making cities Work:

Well,

I think that’s a rich vein of blog topics for me to mine.

Even if I am no longer directly employed as a bookseller I don’t see much else changing here at RocketBomber.

[*sniff*] “so I got that goin’ for me, which is nice”



Market Maturity.

filed under , 26 July 2013, 21:07 by

[What is it with me and the food analogies? I’m fairly certain I’m eating enough…]

When you go to college…

OK, so it’s more about when *I* went to college; I feel my experience is typical but may not be universal – but as in so many of my posts, I utilize the second-person while writing because I want to make it seem more immediate to my readers. Anyway, moving on:

When you go to college and for the first time are away from home and have to grub for yourself (no more parental guidance and/or mandates on that front), even when you have a (parentally supplied) meal plan via the college dining halls (hey, you’re a freshman, and Mom didn’t want you to starve) :

1st. You tend to go a little nuts with fast food.
2nd. You also explore the world of microwavable convenience foods.
3rd. You run out of money. You do the ramen thing.
4th. You finally give in and actually use your meal plan for a week.
5th. You figure out the worst, least healthful, most-fast-food-like options at the dining hall.
6th. You try cooking for yourself in the dorm kitchen. Once.
7th. You consider living on Mountain Dew and vending machine food.

and then finally someone clues you in on the cheap-fast-mostly-good pizza place (or multiple places) that will deliver right to your dorm.

Given your age at the time (late teens, still growing) and your finances: anything hot and covered with cheese is delicious* and the cheaper the better. College kids and pizza are kind of a stereotype, actually, and I’m sure while it’s not true of everyone: I know you recognize the type.

Maybe not pizza… But food delivery to dorms? I’m pretty sure that is universal. (in 1993 at Ga. Tech there was a pizza delivery place that also did chicken fingers — no, not wings — and would pair them with thick cut steak fries and a homemade honey mustard. For like $5! Those were amazing; I still miss those. The place that made them was bulldozed in 1995.)

Soon after you are able to make your own food decisions, you discover pizza delivery and it is literally the best thing ever — for a time — but then you grow up.

After a few semesters (or years) of fairly continuous pizza, punctuated only by late-night trips to greasy-spoon diners (if you were lucky; Krystal or Taco Bell if you weren’t) eventually you realize that this sort of diet is non-sustainable. That or you turn 30. Or you get married, and your wife has other ideas about what you should be feeding your kids.

Your tastes change, you discover a wider world of options, you find new cuisines and new restaurants, you discover the joys of sharing food with friends, you discover a conscience and think about where your food is coming from.

Even if you don’t become a full-on foodie, I think most of us would agree that supporting our great, local, small restaurants is better than shopping at nationwide franchises and chains. When we can find a great, local, small pizza place – that delivers! – then our conscience is salved and we can fall back on the old bad habits anyway. (In *my* neighborhood, I found one with a bar – best/worst thing ever!)

I think the main point I’d like to make, though, is that when we are young and everything is kind of new to us, we can go overboard on something that is tasty and convenient.

And after we grow a bit, while we’ll still do the easy thing that we know is bad for us — we just do it less. We order pizza every other week, or once a month, rather than 3 nights a week and every Saturday night.

##

Internet retail (yes, which 20 years old already) is still in that young-college-age phase where we do what seems easiest even when we know (or eventually learn) that it’s kinda bad for us and unsustainable in the long run.

“W00T! Amazon! I ♥ those guys! Anything I want, delivered fast, cheap, and I mean anything I want! W00T!”

As someone who worked as an RA in college: this is exactly how freshman reacted when they discovered the local pizzerias that delivered.

The market will continue to mature. Options that seem vague and mostly useless now will grow on you in time, and you’ll find yourself exploring more, trying more things. Options that seem stupid now, while your are still enjoying Amazon/CollegeDormPizzaDelivery, will slowly make more and more sense to you later as you consider the other costs (outside of just dollars) built into the ticket.

…Or not.

I know guys well into their 30s who never really grew out of that. (even after marriage, kids, etc. – it can take a diagnosis & prescription for cholesterol and high-blood-pressure meds to scare them out of it).

I guess what I’m saying is Amazon is fine, in moderation. But look around, be adventurous, explore, graze, and maybe incorporate some local options in your overall consumption diet.

##

* anything hot and covered with cheese is still delicious. I’m one of those guys in their 30s who never really grew out of that phase. I cook at home quite a bit *more* these days, though.



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