Friday, September 30, 2011

Delivering Happiness

I have to admit that I was a little turned off initially by this book. As a reader, you are already aware of the glorious final outcome of the story and the rivers of money that Tony must be swimming in. With this in mind, the first part of the book is little hard to swallow. He basically tells a story of growing up fairly privileged (a majority of public high schools don’t demand community service requirements, offer fencing as a PE alternative and feed Harvard and Brown), graduating from Harvard, walking out on a good paying job only to make millions of dollars on a start up, so that he can open a rave loft and throw parties. And now that he’s rich he starts having problems.

But while the first part may sound like gloating, the second part takes a little bit of a turn as we watch Tony dealing with his particular set of problems. I found myself slightly fascinated by the magnitude of the situation that Tony was facing and the level of ingenuity and insight that he and his colleagues employed to save themselves. Still, I can imagine that Tony’s idea of broke was nowhere near as low as what I can fathom.

It was enriching, though to basically tag along as Tony and his colleagues basically shaped their company from a multipurpose loft space to Zappos 2011. I was impressed by that whole loft selling, logistics ordeal. There must have been such a desperation, and comradery among the hand full of workers at such a low point. And its interesting to watch the comradery sort of blossom into a strange corporate family sort of unit as they experience things like the move to Vegas or the financial crisis. You begin to understand the beginning of the book a little more as you become aware of the company that Tony is trying to build once the revenue is coming in. He seems to be aspiring to a level of unity and frequently mentions his appreciation for experiences rather than things. This sort of tribal pihlia sounds a little hoaky as a reader but when you thinka bout it as a customer or a potential worker it is a little refreshing. At Zappos there is a level of transparency and honesty that you don’t typically hear about in other companies, say a financial institution. I appreciate Tony’s focus on customer service its interesting to basically watch that become the company’s saving grace. This sort of invisible byproduct, the experience, that keeps the customer coming back. That letter to the company about the 2008 crisis was really interesting. It’s a little hard to believe that you could be that open with even the lowest employees. But I’m not a CEO yet so I wouldn’t really know.

I really love how the ability to continue to cross brand basically becomes never ending once you have the customer base and their money. I love that there are inspirational blogs and that Tony is invited to speak and so are his employees. Zappos is clearly providing its own brand of experience. Is a sublime user experience (and a heck of a lot of technological savvy and problem solving skills) the key to longevity and revenue online?


Visiting emusic was really enlightening. Speaking with the Max and Rich was very enlightening because it was clear that these guys have a grasp of the particular financial and technological formulas that make e music work. I mean that, the nature of e commerce, especially music seems to necessitate a unique user experience or secondary product that no other retailer can really provide. In the case of emusic, they do a good job of providing that browsing experience when buying music. And I understand the allure of browsing for new music as this was my college passtime when Virgin and Tower were open and allowed you to listen to new music before buying/downloading it.

The experience makes me wonder what it is about the stores and services I like to use online that makes me keep going back to them specifically. There's a specific type of branding that happens with e commerce that is a lot different than a catchy jingle or a bright familiar logo. I never really thought of it in that way, but now I'm realizing how much I consume online specifically. I'm noticing my own online buying habits and how they play into the user experience as a whole.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scan the Star!

Macy's launched (I don't know exactly when) a really cool alternative to the eyesore code blocks that mar every sign that you come across these days. I was just watching a commercial where they urged the viewer to scan the large red star in the center of the screen. It took me a moment to see it but I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed the code in the star!

I have been cringing for weeks now at designs ruined by that disturbing arrangement of enormous black pixels. It inhibits your ability to comprehend the graphic as a work of art. Its worse than Sharpie Tagging. The idea that we are able to scan your way through the web, through shopping trips, to anywhere an advertiser wants you to, with a mobile device is exciting. Its intuitive. I'm rambling but check it out.

I suppose the introductory phase of this smartphone scan code was bound to be a little bumpy as far as the execution is concerned, but its good to see that designers are beginning to think a little harder about integrating the information into the art of the design, its almost another advertising design element. Now where does the portal code go!?

Monday, September 19, 2011

ID Studio Assignment #1

1. What's your first memory of the internet?
I remember having to go over to my Uncle's house to write papers in high school because we didn't have a computer in our house. He had internet access, and it was a little sacred. It required a password to access and wires needed to be affixed properly in the modem? Wow. My first experiences with the web revolved around music. I used to listen to old 70's and 60's soul tunes over and over again on real player. This was the only alternative for a 10th grader prior to napster. I found and fell in love with house music this way.

2. What is your favorite book, painting, story, movie, or otherwise about a high-tech future?
Total Recall. I remember falling in love with this movie as a child. The idea that your vacation could just be a memory transplant as opposed to an arduous travel ordeal. I loved the mutants, and the vast underground system of the Mars they depicted. I die for those holograms!

3. What do you like about the internet?
You can find anything at all in an instant even on your phone, and I have a slow phone. I can browse recipes as a shop for groceries. I can schedule the bus trip home to time said shopping excursion appropriately. I can get discounts at local merchants by showing them digital coupons on my phone screen. I can teach myself the basics of PHP in a week without spending a dime.

4. What do you not like about the internet?
It is binding. I was just thinking the other day, "What if I wanted to get off of facebook?" I probably couldn't ever. Because they would still own all of the information that I had ever posted there even if my profile was removed. Which means that it could resurface at anytime at a strangers whim pretty much.

5. What is your favorite interaction that usees technology?
Capturing images.

6. What is your favorite interaction that does not use technology?
Working out.

7. What does the intenet look like? This answer needs to be an image only. You can draw one or you can find one that represents the internet on your terms.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

NYU Poly Incubator

I was very inspired by our trip to the Incubator. Aside from the hum drum Amanda at Brainscape, I thought that the presenters were very engaging. She was informative however and she did say that she studied neuroscience so I can imagine that she's probably not been the life of the party for some time. Phil in particular did a really good job of evangelizing the entrepreneurial spirit. The presentations gave me an understanding of how a small media business is organized and how little staff you need to make a thing work as long as your staff is competent. The teams are incredibly small which means that work is shared, but the key roles, like developing are manned by qualified and seasoned individuals. I'm going to need to focus on beefing up my development skills. I am inspired by the idea that good businesses grow from good teams. I usually consider myself a bit of a loaner, but I am excited to work in a team environment.

It is reassuring that there are men and women who are willing to devote their time to fostering an atmosphere that pretty much encourages the trial and error nature of starting a business. It is good to know that there are real interests in those wanting to start small business besides that which we hear from the political arena about small businesses and taxes and what not. I always thought that it would be best to get a good degree and get a job with a massive rich company, but I am really starting to think otherwise.

I also had the pleasure of running into an old friend from undergrad. He Is the Co-Owner at Torch Films and joined the Incubator in 2009.