Clairvoyance.

I’m going to make a prediction that gas prices will go up to $1.11 per liter this weekend. That’s about $4.50 a gallon. Given the current price of $0.99 per liter ($3.96 per gallon), that’s an increase of over 12%.

How can I make such a prediction you ask?

Well for one thing, it’s a long weekend, and gas prices always increase before a long weekend. Oops, I forgot that oil companies would say that prices are just getting back to normal after a small price war.

Oh yeah, I also noticed about an hour ago that the gas station near my home had raised its price to $1.11.3 per liter ($4.45 per gallon).

Of course that’s for regular 89 octane gas. 91 octane will set you back about $1.21 per liter ($4.84 per gallon), and premium will really hurt at about $1.31 per liter ($5.24 per gallon).

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One thing you can’t learn from history.

… is technology disruption. Or likely any other kind of disruption.

Jeff Jarvis is looking for disruptive possibilities:

I’m at a session on Newspaper Next, an American Press Institute project to try to bring innovation to newspapers. They’re working with Clay Christensen, change guru, and started projects with various newspapers about such things as getting ads from smaller businesses; creating a one-stop resource for mothers; developing an organizational structure for innovation; increasing readership; getting broader audiences…

But Clay Christensen isn’t really a change guru, he’s a change historian.He has made a career out of helping us understand disruption that has already happened, which is useful, but I’m not sure he’s show an aptitude for predicting it. And while you may be able to recognize a disruptive technology by knowing their history, I don’t think you can learn how to create disruptions by knowing the history.

Jeff gives a graphic example:

I said to Gray that the project seems to be trying to move a big, old barge five degrees when we need to blow up the barge and pick up the pieces and build new boats.

Newspapers are stuck in the model of gathering, editing, and delivering information to a shrinking group of people who want it. And each paper applies their particular cultural bias or viewpoint to that information.

Imagine instead if newspapers aggregated everything about a particular story in one place – news reports, eyewitness reports, blogs, press releases, etc. – and then assigned some sort of weighting to it – confirmed, unconfirmed, opinion, hearsay, government release, etc. – and just kept adding to that archive as long as the story was relevant. You could see all potential views and reports on particular story, and derive your own views based on that information.

That would kill a lot of the value of Google or Yahoo! News. It would also mean that fewer newspapers were necessary. But it would let people have the information needed to make up their own minds, free of the bias that newspapers claim not to have.

And just think of the potential side business of reader polls based on what they are reading (and possibly voting for online). There could even be a television reality show – America’s Top Headline.

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Understanding.

No sooner does Seth write an excellent list of things marketers (and anyone really) should know about salespeople, than productmarketing uses it as an excuse to deliver veiled insults toward salespeople:

Yet… it often seems that sales people respect their own skills and no one else’s.

True, sales people can’t tell you when they’ll close a deal but many (not all) expect developers to report exactly what minute the next release will be available and want sales tools before they’re ready.

Though I’m sure this is not the case and the writer is just trying to make a point, it would seem at first glance that the writer has a bad history with salespeople.

I’ve worked in sales, but I’ve also worked in product management, marketing, and development. I’ve even written code, and had to deliver projects on schedule. And I’ve learned that good salespeople have respect for everyone’s skills, but like anything, that respect must earned. Good salespeople understand the value of good contacts in every department so that they have a good understanding of all facets of a sale, including getting the product built and delivered to the customer, and supporting that ongoing relationship.

Salespeople also have to provide weekly reports to their management about their progress, and they do have to make educated guesses as to when a deal will close, based on rigid rules in many cases (i.e. meeting with economic buyers, etc.). But while the process of software development is entirely under the control of your company in terms of scheduling and resource demand, a sale is generally driven by people on the buyer side, based on the their requirements and their timelines. Smart salespeople mitigate those risks, but it is a lot harder for them to close a sale than it is for you to drop a feature.

And many times, even if you drop a feature, they will still close the deal.

The relationship between sales and other departments will often be difficult, but Seth makes a great first step, because understanding the other person’s problems and motivations always makes it easier to work with them. Besides, companies don’t grow too fast without any sales, so I always make my best effort to help close the sale by understanding the drivers, which often helps to minimize the work required for all of us.

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Blaming the critics.

The Lord of the Rings – the musical – is closing its run in Toronto on September 3, not quite reaching the six month mark since its opening late last March. And it’s all because of the critics:

Canadians just don’t get it. That was the bitter message from English theatre producer Kevin Wallace as he announced that The Lord of the Rings will close in Toronto Sept. 3, quashing hopes that the $28-million musical would single-handedly revive a tourism market suffering from a powerful Canadian dollar and high gas prices on one hand, and American security fears on the other.

Yesterday, a defensive Mr. Wallace used a candid press conference at the Princess of Wales Theatre to retort to the Canadian and American critics who disliked the show, blaming them for its truncated Toronto run.

Actually a number of things are blamed, but no allowance is made for the possibility that it was, as the critics said, bad theatre. Movies that have been soundly panned by critics often do well despite that, driven by viewer word of mouth in their support. If word of mouth from those who saw the music couldn’t overcome the comments of critics, that on its own says a lot.

Really though, a musical Lord of the Rings? What were they thinking? Spamalot, it’s not.

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Net loss.

It’s astounding how quickly the idea of net neutrality – the idea that all bits are created equal and should be treated as such – was spun as a demand for government regulation of the internet. And it was spun that way by telecom carriers, the very folks who make their revenue courtesy of government regulations. Yet suddenly they didn’t want any regulation.

They were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to afford to provide us even more bandwidth if they couldn’t charge companies more for their internet bandwidth; sometimes even for bandwidth the companies are already paying for.

They likened differential or priority services to the US Postal Service. After all, it costs more to deliver a first class letter, doesn’t it? But the US Postal Service is a monopoly; they guarantee delivery, and they control the entire end to end transaction. And they actually provide a different service for a different price.

But telecommunications doesn’t work like that. It’s more like a water pipe, and the carrier only controls a piece of the pipe. But they want to charge different prices depending on who is using the pipe. Can you imagine if your city started to look at every drop of water, and charged you a different price for carrying your water than it did for a large company in your town? What if they charged a special surcharge for companies that sold water to fill your pool?

So why is it acceptable to look at bits and charge a special surcharge to VoIP companies whose phone calls are flowing over the pipe?

We’re talking about a pipe. Clearly you should charge for consumption, but why does it matter what you use the water for? Or the bits?

Just like Mitch Radcliffe says:

Farewell, open networks and open standards. Soon every packet will be subject to inspection and surcharges based on what it carries and who sent it or where it is going.

The reason the internet has become as useful as it is, is because it doesn’t discriminate. As soon as it starts to discriminate, it loses its value. So telecom carriers will see a huge undeserved surge in profits. And then internet use will start to die, and those profits will dry up. And I promise that we will never see the carriers’ promised increase in bandwidth, but in a year or two will will hear that the internet just isn’t generating enough revenue to add that promised capacity – again.

But the profits they generate will allow them to fight any competition, because competition will just be overcharged to death. But there will never be another Google or Yahoo! because as soon as a new company’s traffic starts to climb so will the surcharges.And you can say good bye to YouTube. But the telecom companies will roll out plenty of radical new services. Like voice mail or call display, probably the last radical new services they rolled out.

The funny thing is that no matter what you pay, you still don’t get a guarantee of anything because nobody owns the internet end to end. Except in the U.S., where it looks like the government is about to hand the keys to the carriers. I guess it just proves what P.T.Barnum said. Maybe sometimes you can fool all of the people.

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Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

A group of clinical nutrition researchers, concerned that people were focusing too much on only one or two causes of obesity, came up with a list of 10 more. My favorite is number 4 – Decreased smoking (Smoking reduces weight. Americans smoke much less than they used to.)

So if you smoke, you may get cancer, which can kill you. If you stop smoking, you may get obese, which can kill you. You can’t win either way. (Ok, unless you also exercise or eat less.)

But the “Cruel Joke of Nature” award goes to number 9 – Obesity linked to fertility. Perhaps obese people are more fertile, and we’re genetically predisposed to getting bigger.

Of course if global warming actually increases, we’ll just sweat the pounds off. Eventually nature will achieve a balance. (Ed. Note to people with no sense of humor: The preceding comment was intended to be humorous.)

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You get what you pay for.

Most mornings when I am at home I will stop by a coffee shop, Williams Coffee Pub, near my home. They are a Starbucks wannabe kind of place, with similar prices, but not so good coffee. But… they offer free WiFi. So I find it a nice place to work first thing in the morning given that I would have to pay to use Starbucks WiFi.

Sadly though, their WiFI service doesn’t work all that well, and this morning it wasn’t working at all. So I left and went somewhere else for coffee.

I can’t really say much since the service is gratis, but the lesson here is if you’re going to promise a service, make darn sure you can actually provide the service – whether it is free or not. In some cases it may be the sole reason the customer decided to buy from you.

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There’s big money in guilt.

If you’re feeling guilty about the damage you are doing to the environment, for as little as $57 you can make that guilt go away:

WHEN Anne Pashby moved to Baltimore last year, she was dismayed by the complexity of recycling in her new city.

"I can never get it right about which day is paper versus cardboard versus cans," said Ms. Pashby, 38, a human resources manager. "So I’ve given up on it."

But she wasn’t ready to give up on the environment. Looking for an easier way to make her life greener, she tried a "carbon calculator" at the Web site of the Conservation Fund (conservationfund.org). She learned that the events of her everyday life, like driving the car, heating her home or taking plane trips, produced about 14 tons a year of carbon emissions, or "carbon footprint." The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit group in Arlington, Va., offered to neutralize that amount for $57, by planting 11 trees in the lower Mississippi Valley – enough to remove 14 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. She happily complied.

There are many groups that will happily take your money to make you feel better, ostensibly to invest in clean energy or similar projects. And some are even makin a profit doing it:

ACCOUNTABILITY may be especially important in the for-profit arena. NativeEnergy, TerraPass and others profit by buying and then reselling green tags and other investments.

Soinstead of actually doing something about the environment – Ms. Pashby can’t be bothered to figure out how recycling works – at least you can assuage your guilt with some cash.

And if you are concerned about your ensuring that your dinner isn’t treated badly before it gets to you, people are looking out for you too:

This month Whole Foods announced that it would no longer sell live lobsters, saying that keeping them in crammed tanks for long periods doesn’t demonstrate a proper concern for animal welfare. The Chicago City Council recently outlawed the sale of foie gras to protest the force-feeding of the ducks and geese that yield it. California passed a similar law, which doesn’t take effect until 2012, and other states and cities are considering such measures

Prior to discontinuing the sale of lobsters, Whole Foods had created habitats, with separate tubes for each lobster.

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Killing the golden goose.

According to Ed Bott, it seems that future Windows Genuine Advantage (Windows Genuine Disadvantage?) upgrades may disable Windows – yes the whole operating system. And Microsoft isn’t denying it at all.

Given the state of some of these upgrades, I can imagine the day when an upgrade comes out and Windows – in corporate production environments – just stops working. I’ll still be working away on my Powerbook.

I wish I could say I was amazed by the arrogance of Microsoft – that their concerns override yours, and they can shut you down if they damn well please -but I’m less and less surprised every day.

Oddly, the official Microsoft announcement mentions nothing about this. And there seems to be a lack of Microsoft bloggers expounding on the subject.

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Just another demograghic.

The discussion of the day is that podcasting is an inefficient way to take in information, unless you are commuting. Of course plenty of people commute, so perhaps you could build a business around podcasting for commuters, except for the massive inconvenience involved.

In order to listen to podcasts, you’d have to find items that interested you, subscribe to them, download them to your personal music player, connect the player to the car audio system, select the program you want to listen to while driving, and listen. And then select another program. And hope that you have plenty of shows that interest you.

If only somebody would put together a network of podcasters, organize their shows into some sort of schedule, and then create some way to download the podcasts wirelessly. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. Sort of like radio.

People talk about podcasting as if it is some amazing new technology, forgetting that we’ve had radio and books on tape for decades. The only difference is that we store the thing in a digital file now. And of course, using the internet as a medium allows anybody to create a show with unlimited reach. But just because you can do it doesn’t mean people will want to listen.

So let’s assume that you are targeting commuters. The key is to provide something that I want to listen to on an ongoing basis, and the podcasts I’ve listened to so far are just not keeping my interest that well. And it needs to be a lot more convenient to get shows – and it will need to be wireless so that I can get what I want easily without using a PC.

The real danger for podcasting companies is that when someone figures out right content to attract a mass audience, good old-fashioned broadcasters, who already know this business and have plenty of cash, will be more than happy to jump in to commercialize it. They understand that it isn’t some cool technology for geeks; it’s just another demographic.

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