A small token.

Today Amazon put a button on their main page to allow concerned customers to use 1-Click to donate directly to American Red Cross South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Relief Efforts. As of now they have collected 13057 payments totalling $635,123.42.

I recently began working with a company called Redknee, where I work with several people from areas hard hit by this disaster. I’ve mentioned the company before, and they are certainly one of the best companies I’ve had the fortune to work with. A few minutes ago the CEO sent a message via email that the company would match all employee donations.

It would be amazing if more companies valued social reponsibility this highly.

Update: In the span of writing this post (I’m also watching Spiderman 2 with my son) Amazon is up to 13648 payments totalling $666,677.49.

What defines gouging?

Cafe Hayek suggests that controlling prices – eliminating price gouging – “camouflages the underlying reality”. I agree.

I have always wondered what constitutes “price gouging”? I think that in the case of a natural disaster, the prices do indeed rise as a result of the supply and demand situation, and that is not gouging.

On September 11, 2001, gas stations in Tennesee raised their gas prices from $1.40 a gallon to $4.00 a gallon in a matter of four hours. There was no immediate threat to their supply. That is price gouging.

I think the general concern is more one of preventing a few greedy individuals from taking maximum and unreasonable advantage of a difficult situation, rather than merely allowing market forces to act.

Television police.

Imagine having to pay a license fee for the right to own a television. If you live in Britain you don’t need to imagine, because you are required by law to pay a fee of over $200 annually to the BBC. The BBC collected over $7.5 billion from the fee in 1993. This might have made sense when the BBC was the only thing available, but there is much more choice now, yet other broadcasters do not share in the fee.

If you don’t own a television, you will be forced to prove it, and may face a visit from the television police. Failure to pay may get you a $2,000 fine or jail. When I was a kid I spent some time in Scotland with my mom’s parents, and I can remember reading about the television detector vans.

In North America we don’t pay a license fee. We just pay for cable television.

(Link from Asymmetrical Information)

First start a conversation.

Fortune has an excellent series in their Technology section about 10 Tech Trends, one of which is entitled “Why There’s No Escaping the Blog“. The article suggests that when faced with criticism over their MSN Spaces blogging tool, Microsoft deployed Robert Scoble. The article corrects this suggestion, stating that nobody at Microsoft asked Scoble to comment.

There is overwhelming information on the net that blogs are the marketing/advertising tool that your company needs. Create a blog and the world will beat a path to your door. Robert Scoble at Microsoft is the perfect example.

Or is it? Microsoft didn’t start the blog. Scoble started blogging and established credibility long before he went to Microsoft. Microsoft, his current employer, is merely benefitting from that credibility. To their credit, they are effectively using the information that he gathers rather than ignoring it.

My point? A good blog is not the result of a marketing campaign. But good marketing can be the result of a good blog.

If you want to market your company, don’t just talk. Listen to what is happening in the world of blogs. Get involved in the conversation. Give, and take. After a while, when you want to say something about your product, people will be in the mood to listen.

This is just like dealing with people. Be a good listener. Contribute to the conversation. Then people will be happy to listen to you.

(Link from gaping void)

A different kind of news.

Our visit with family over the holidays has found me at times without an internet connection. Connecting last night I was immediately inundated with news of the earthquake and tsunami in Asia. As I read the different reports from both mainstream media as well as bloggers I realized just how much I rely on the net for both information, as well as a personal and intimate slant on that information. Within a few minutes I was able to read wire stories, personal accounts, and outpourings of sympathy – many hours before I’ll be able to read about it in a newspaper.

My world is expanded infinitely by the seamless community that exists on the internet, providing news and analysis as events unfold in real time. I still read printed news, but more and more I do so merely for the op-ed value to get the analysis from a particular viewpoint. Where I used to read two or three newspapers a day to determine the unbiased news, I can now get hundreds of points of view in minutes, giving me an instant 360 degree view of what is important in the world.

Things that just work.

We bought our oldest son a new Motorola V551 cell phone with Bluetooth. Just for fun we turned on out IBM Thinkpad with Bluetooth. Seconds later we were able to copy pictures from the cell phone to the laptop. It is so nice when things like that work just as you expect them to.

I have rights too.

Cory has an interesting item about Digital Rights Management (DRM) vendors using latency to determine proximity of devices on the internet. To quote his co-worker:

So some systems have been adopting rules about not sending some programming to devices that take more than a certain number of milliseconds to answer you when you say hello and ask them for acknowledgment, on the theory that devices that answer really quickly plausibly are on the same local network, whereas device that answer more slowly probably are not.

Such a concept assumes consistent latency across the internet – essentially a quality of service that does not exist. Even within my home network there are both wired and wireless devices though the latency may be indistinguishable.

At any rate, if I have paid for the content why would I not be able to view it even if I were sitting halfway around the world? Ideally I would like to load content to my audio/video server and they access it from anywhere for personal use, which should still be quite legal and unencumbered.

Does it really matter?

Unlike some people, I haven’t taken the time to write down (or write a book about) everything my wife and I disagree on. Over the years most of the disagreements have become less important. Considering that our first argument, a day after we returned from our honeymoon, was over how to make the bed. Things like that seem somewhat inconsequential these days. Most of the time now we just laugh about stuff like that.

(Link from tony goodson)