danbricklin.com/log

Starting November 30, 2000
In memory of Dana Atchley, The value of bandwidth, Speaking to MIT and University of Chicago students as well as listening to an Amazon.com VP, Speaking in NYC, New PR firm, The Capitol Steps
30Nov00-15Dec00
2000_11_30.htm
Friday, December 15, 2000
In memory of Dana Atchley
I just learned that Dana Atchley passed away Wednesday. Dana had a major influence on my life and this log. May his memory be a blessing.

Dana smiling when I first met him in June 1999
Dana Atchley
1941-2000

Some links:
Center for Digital Storytelling's tribute
My story of attending Dana's Digital Storytelling Festival (the Real-media links no longer point to a working server -- RealNetworks took it down)
My first encounter with Dana
The Digital Storytelling Festival web site
The web site for Dana's work, Next Exit
AppleMasters bio

The value of bandwidth
Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the MassBroadband Advisory Board. It inspired me to write some comments about how valuable people find "always on" IP connectivity, how important it is to provide it to everyone, and why it will provide a growing revenue stream to telecom companies without adding bundled services.


Many people around a U-shaped table listening to someone present
The participants from all over Massachusetts

Monday, December 11, 2000
Speaking to MIT and University of Chicago students as well as listening to an Amazon.com VP
My friend Ted Rybeck asked me to address the last session of the class he was running at MIT on Value Chains. Since the students had to do a project at school, he asked me to tell the part of the VisiCalc story that related to coming up with ideas in class. In addition, he wanted me to talk about Peer-to-Peer systems, another major topic of the class.

I joined the class last Tuesday. I was one of two speakers. The other speaker was Jeff Wilke, Senior VP of Operations of Amazon.com.

What was special about this course was that it was taught jointly by a University of Chicago professor as well as people at MIT. Students could take the course on either campus. Classes were linked by video conferencing.

Students listening to professor with TV sets on wall
Ted Rybeck addressing the class in Cambridge, Massachusetts
I showed some of my slides about the VisiCalc days, and then discussed my thoughts about P2P, mainly by paraphrasing my three essays: Cornucopia of the Commons, Thoughts about Peer-to-Peer, and Friend-to-Friend Networks.

It was very strange talking to a class that consisted of people both near and far. The VisiCalc story has lots of Boston-area connections, and I'm used to pointing them out when I talk near Boston. This time, though, I kept needing to catch myself and say something to connect to the people in Chicago. While this split class was a bit strange, I liked how I could leverage my time by speaking to many more students at once yet still have that personal feeling of having faces right in front of me and all participants able to ask questions.

I stayed for the second part of the class when Jeff Wilke spoke. I found it fascinating, and have quoted from it many times since.

Jeff spent a lot of time at AlliedSignal and is very experienced in the logistics of moving material around the world. He spoke from Seattle at a video-conferencing center. We watched with his image on one screen, his slides on another, and yet another with the image of the students in Chicago. Very techie. It was interactive enough that he could comment on my flannel shirt even though I was just sitting along with the others.

TV sets above students  Split screen showing Wilke in Seattle and class in Chicago
In Cambridge watching Amazon.com VP in Seattle and class in Chicago
Here are just a few of the areas he discussed:

Packaging: It is strange that products like kid's dolls are put in large fragile packaging that must be protected when traveling to the distribution center (instead of a retail store), then they take up extra space on the shelf (in retail stores the packaging helps in merchandising but not at a place like Amazon), then that packaging must be protected on the way to the customer. With products like consumer electronics which change frequently, the cost of retail-oriented packaging can be quite high.
"Well understood systems always beat the best math" -- make sure you put in place inventory systems people understand, even seasonal labor.
Mean vs. variance: You not only need to work on lowering the time to get deliveries (either from suppliers to them or them to customers), but also in minimizing the variation. People need to know exactly when something will arrive. Knowing exactly "when" is often more important than having a low "average". Not only do customers like the certainty, but also if Amazon can depend upon a delivery date they can get by with less inventory. With products that quickly become obsolete this can have an impact on order size and timing, affecting the cost to manufacturers. Amazon spends a lot of time on variation reduction.
They realize now that there is nothing radical about "e" by itself. What it really means is that you finally get to do all the neat stuff that was not feasible 10 years ago. That's what makes "e" businesses special.

Thursday, December 7, 2000
Speaking in NYC
I'm speaking this morning at the Basex Group's Communities 2000 East conference in New York City. (I type this on the 6am US Airways Shuttle.) [I posted it while testing the podium setup.]

My keynote will touch on why we at Trellix Corporation think web sites are important to online communities, and then delve into depth about some aspects of interpersonal communication. The web site part is one I haven't covered on my web site yet, but I hope to soon (this flight is too short for that). The other part will mainly consist of the material I presented in some of my essays, so you can read them if you like:


I'm ending with a quote from The Little Prince, chapter 21 or so, about the fox. It includes the part when the little prince says "I am looking for friends. What does that mean -- 'tame'?" "It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."

Thursday, November 30, 2000
New PR firm
With our change in business model at Trellix Corporation to private-label server-based web site authoring, our marketing folks brought in a new public relations agency. This morning was our "kick off" meeting to introduce them to our CEO Don Bulens, me, and others. I took a picture:

Eight people around a table
Meeting with new PR people
Our new firm is The Portico Group. Four of their people, led by co-founder Katherine Leavenworth Waite, discussed things with us. Among other things in her past, Katherine boasts about representing Compaq when she was at Miller/Shandwick Technologies. I remember in the early 1980s when we at Software Arts had Miller Communications as our PR firm, which did a good enough job to impress our friend Ben Rosen to bring them on to serve Compaq. I remember discussing it with them. I asked her what year she worked with Compaq to see if there was any connection. She said "1991". I knew them when she was just starting college... Boy, I'm starting to feel ancient.

Capitol Steps
Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend a Capitol Steps concert in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Capitol Steps are an entertainment troupe that started out as Congressional staffers. They do parody songs and skits, usually on political themes. To see them in the midst of the election dealings was a treat. They customize their material on a daily basis from what I've seen.

I saw them in Sanders Theater at Harvard University. I have a picture of the outside of this marvelous building, but they don't allow pictures inside. Luckily, I have some pictures I took at another "Steps" concert last May to use as examples.

Building at night through the trees  Guy in sunglasses holding mike in front of Capitol Steps logo
Tower of Sanders Theater, "Bill Clinton"
In the opening piece, four people came out with their heads sticking out of cardboard rectangles: The Chads. They sang a song with the chorus line "You just keep me hanging on!" to the Motown tune. Lots of Bush, Gore, Clinton, etc. They sang a version of their "Son of a Bush" parody that's on their last album and listed on their web site (hear it in RealAudio). They also did a version of "Right-wing's Striking Again" (sung by "Pat Buchanan" and others to the tune of "Lightnin' Strikes"). I have a picture of them doing that in May, this time with "Jesse", "Pat", and "Ross":

Three guys singing, one bald and big, one in star and strips, and one with big ears and hat  Guy in baseball hat and woman singing
April: "Right-wing striking again", "Can't say Yo!"
"Hillary" sang something to the tune of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina". Last May, she sang "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say 'Yo!'" (about learning to be a New Yorker) to the Oklahoma! tune.

They usually do at least one computer industry song. This time, to "raise money to help Bill Gates make up his losses from a breakup", they had a "benefit" with "Michael Jackson", "Dylan", etc., singing "We All Use Word! We All Use Windows!" to the tune of "We Are The World".

A fun night.

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