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    Thoughts on Black Friday 2008

    November 25th, 2008

    I do love a good Black Friday event, but it appears that this year stores are coming up a bit short.

    To be fair, I am only looking at Wal-Mart.  That is really the only store that will have a sale of any type in my area.  Yeah, I live in ‘that town’.  But I also hate the huge lines at the major stores.  It just isn’t worth it for me.  Never has been.  But if it is your thing then go for it.

    Anyway, even though I have only really looked at Wal-Mart I think that they are usually a good gauge of how Black Friday deals will be overall.  If Wal-Mart cannot put on a good show then we are in for some trouble.  The exception might be for the kids.  They do have lots and lots of cheap stuff that will appeal to kids.  So maybe you don’t find something for yourself, but pick up something for the kids.

    The other thing that I noticed is that the deals, in terms of items offered, are very similar to last year.  Maybe it is like that every year and I have missed it.  All I know is that Wal-Mart seems to have TVs, some okay console bundles, okay movies deals, a GPS unit, and computers on sale.  Same stuff, new day.  I guess it is still a deal.

    I will do some more browsing on bfads.net because I really like how they lay things out. (Leave a comment if you have a site you really like)  Perhaps some deal will show up there.  I am looking to buy a laptop, but I want it to have bluetooth and not be totally tiny.  Battery life is also a plus.  I will have to do a bunch more research to figure out what is truly a good deal.

    I want to spend my hard earned money retailers, give me a chance!  I’m still pulling for some great on-line deals to pop up.  TigerDirect has had some great ones already.  I hope others join in!

    Will you be going out on Black Friday?  If so, where and why?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.



    Are Antiques Getting Less Common?

    November 21st, 2008

    In this post I return to the topic of virtual goods. I have previously written about virtual goods and how I don’t particularly get them. Clearly there are many reasons why a person would buy such a thing, but I thought that Fantasy7 did the best job making an argument that when you buy a virtual good, such as a gift on Facebook, you are really buying an experience for whomever you are buying it for. Fantasy7 did not look at it so much as a gift of property, but a gift of enjoyment to the gift recipient.

    This does make sense in a lot of ways, but the financial side of me is not yet done kicking. This time I will stay away from video game objects, virtual gifts, and other such things. I will go after a major market: digital music.

    Understand that I don’t have anything against digital music. I love my iPod Shuffle as much as the next person.  I love the ease of use, transfer, and search capabilities of a mp3 library.  My issue is the future.  What happens when you no longer like an artist and you want to get rid of the CD?  There is no garage sale.  Amazon cannot help you. eBay cannot be there for you.  You simply cannot sell the CD when you are done because it is just a file.  Even if you take the money aspect out of this, you cannot share (legally) your music with anybody.  So really when you spend that money, you had better be buying for the experience for the song rather than the song.

    But really this is expanding beyond just the music world.  There are audio books, books for a reader like Kindle, entire video games, movies, pictures, etc.  Basically anything that people can figure out how to get on-line, they are putting on the internet.

    What does this mean to the world of artistic photography?  Can you really justify paying for an digital copy of a piece or artwork when it takes nothing to create the same thing.  There are no numbered prints; I can just print my own.  The artwork is the artist’s brand and with digital distribution they have no control over their brand.  As for DVDs and CDs, whether you like to admit it or not, there is a certain sense of pride to have a DVD filled wall or shelving unit.

    What do you think?  Is the age of Antiques Roadshow dead?  Will there be anything to pass onto the kids for the items I am talking about?  If not, does that say anything about this generation?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.


    Redbox Is For Me

    November 17th, 2008

    This story starts 2 days ago.  I recently had some great things happen at work and so I wanted to celebrate.  I headed over to Walmart (did they drop the dash?), the starting point for any real celebration, and picked up some beers and then headed over to the movie section.

    Keep in mind that I have not purchased many moves since my days on eBay when I made buying and reselling a hobby.  I counted on my awesome roommate for movies who had a great collection, Netfix, and newsgroups.  I also don’t really rent movies because I don’t like to pay for something that I don’t have afterwords.  See my post on virtual goods to see if you agree.

    Anyway, I was lamenting my purchase of several movies at work when a co-worker informed me that he just found out that there was a Redbox at our local Walgreens.  My response was a woefully uninformed “What the hell is that?”  He explained it to me, gave me a photocopy of some codes he had copied down for a free rental and here is sit less than 24 hours later having already watched 2 movies that I wanted to watch and didn’t spend a dime.

    So now that you are this far into the post, you may be wondering what Redbox actually is.  Basically it is a movie vending machine.  Not a new idea, but still awesome because it is a network.  You can return a rented DVD to any Redbox location.  The other point that is puts this from “cool” to “freaking awesome” is the cost.  One dollar a night.  You can’t beat that. Oh wait, except with codes that can be used once per credit/debit card you have.

    So I was already sold and then I decided to see if they were on Twitter.  They are.  More awesome.  Can it get better?  Oh yes.  They give out codes for free rentals on Monday.  With all of these codes one has to wonder how the heck they even make money, but I am sure there are a ton of people that never look for codes before buying.  I always do; its just my nature.

    I couldn’t help but spread the good word from my Twitter account @TheCakeScraps at which point a friend took the opportunity to point out that @redbox doesn’t have the greatest selection.  I can’t speak to that.  I don’t even know what was released this past week, or any week, because I just look for movies that look interesting.  I admit that there are movies in the case that kind of make me think “who the heck would want that movie.  Some just look like crap and no surprise that imdb.com confirms my suspicions on many of the titles such as Beer For My Horses which is clocking it at a whopping 3.8/10.0.

    That said, I would highly recommend that people look into this.  My Redbox is a block away and it takes, literally, 5 minutes to go get a DVD and get back.  I doesn’t have the selection of a Netfilx or local rental store, but the price is right, free DVD codes abound, there are no hours on it – if it is an outside machine – and there is no monthly fee.  Check this service out.

    On a side note, and in closing, I want to say that if you work at or own a company that employs a lot of people – such as a manufacturing plant – or in a place that has high traffic you should really look into this.  I was a little disappointed because I found out that I can’t just buy one and make money from it.  I have to own the place that it is going.  Too bad, I would have thrown up some money to put one in somewhere and taken the chance to get some money.

    What about you; does this seem like something to look into?  Would you use it or is streaming video coming too fast and Netflix is too big, and who knows what else?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.


    Time For Twitter

    November 13th, 2008

    If you have had a chance to look at my About page you know that I can be found on Twitter @TheCakeScraps.  I can’t say that I use Twitter a lot, mostly for small updates and general questions, but I really think that is where the value in Twitter lies.

    CommonCraft.com has an interesting video on what Twitter is.  They elect to describe it more as an away message that you would find on Pidgin, AIM or whatever you may use.  This includes updates such as “Going to the game” or “sitting around the house”.

    It is true that some people do use it for that, but I tend to think that it actually degrades the service.  In fact, there are occasions where I do not follow people simply because I don’t want to have to wade through endless tweets that I don’t really care about. There was an interesting post on A Thousand Cuts that conveyed a similar thought

    On Twitter, many folks share personal details like what’s for dinner, how much they love caffeine or the occasional banter about the Red Sox.  These conversations help us get to know contacts more personally, but can at times be perceived as noise.

    Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy a daily update about what went on or how you are feeling.  What I don’t want is an update every 10 minutes.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to read through all of that crap.

    I use Twitter more as a mini-blog.  I think of each tweet as a post rather than an away message.  I like throwing in a link to my latest post.  I like posing a question or thought and getting reactions.  That is what I really love about Twitter.  That is what I have time for.  Follow me on Twitter @TheCakeScraps. You won’t be disappointed you did.

    What about you?  How do you think that Twitter should be used?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.


    Needless Comparison, Or Is It?

    November 11th, 2008

    What is the market doing?  How is my site doing in relation to other sites?  How much time are people spending on my competitors site?  Hitwise can tell you all of this.  The real question is where do you go from there?

    It has been my experience that people fall into two categories on this topic.  In the first group are the people who are absolutely convinced that you need to know how your competitors are doing and that Hitwise data is a must.  Residing in the second group are the people that say that the data may be interesting, but “it doesn’t impact what we as a company need to get done.”  It is important to note that the latter group isn’t saying the data is useless, rather it is just not going to impact what the company does.

    That is what is said in the meeting.

    In practice I have found that the data does impact the business.  People do make decisions on the data – and they should!  Don’t ever believe otherwise.  You have to know what your competitors are doing if you want to position yourself correctly.

    Take the simple statistic of traffic to a site.  On one hand it is easy to say that you cannot change the traffic to another person’s site.  The data is not actionable.  Just focus on your own site.  I ask you to look deeper for a moment.

    You know that your traffic is down 10% – perhaps you even have an alert set for such dips – but their traffic is down 15% to last year.  You could look at this and think that you are doing better than them.  That is good.  Keep doing what you’re are doing.  Then you look at your ‘competitive set’ a.k.a. a group of sites similar to yours.  Their traffic is down 15% as well.  Still looking pretty good for you.  The danger is thinking just that.

    Yes, their traffic is down.  Your traffic is down less.  This is interesting, but you have to look for the real questions.  What are they doing or not doing compared to last year?  What are you doing or not doing compared to them?  This is where the power of the data is; not the data itself but adding that extra dimension.  If you can learn from them as well as yourself you can really help out yourself at a much reduced cost.

    I think this brings about the way that the two groups mentioned at the beginning of this post really need to blend.  The first group – Hitwise junkies – are wrong if they are just looking at the data.  There needs to be an additional dimension added to turn the data into information.  The second group – the nay sayers – are also wrong if they see no value in the data.  The right questions have to be asked.  Comparisons can be made, but there needs to be an intent for action behind them.

    If this blending can happen and form a third group then real information, not just data, is at your fingertips.  Do you agree?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.


    Virtual Goods And How I Don’t Get Them

    November 4th, 2008

    I may be in the minority or maybe I just don’t have enough money to throw away or maybe I just don’t get it.

    Viximo is a purveyor of virtual goods, more commonly called gifts.  While I would not say that they are common on Facebook, Facebook is the largest platform that they exist on (to my knowledge).  To be fair, while I might not think that they are common, Facebook is counting on it for revenue and not in small amounts.  It is estimated at $30 to $40 Million a year.

    I don’t know how much Viximo is planning to make but when I first read about them over at TechCrunch I knew they would make money.  To be clear, I still don’t get it.  I know they will make money, and lots of it since their cost is fixed and it does not matter how many of a particular gift they sell, but why do people buy?

    The value of something is defined by two things – supply and demand.  There is nothing more to it.  If you had 1 ton of gold and nobody wanted it you may as well have 1 ton of gravel.  In contrast you could have that ton of gravel in a place where no quarry exists and everybody wants it and it could be worth lots.  It is all supply and demand.

    How does this relate to virtual goods?  If someone buys a virtual gift who really owns it?  If Facebook goes under – work with me here – where is your virtual gift?  Gone.  Do a google search on what happens to DRM protected music when the issuer goes under.  The sites going under will actually tell you to burn your songs to a CD and rip them back to your hard drive because you can’t transfer them or have the DRM validated after the site shuts down.  Why risk it?

    I guess my point is that I understand that it can be fun to give a gift, it doesn’t really make sense.  Just e-mail them some clip art.  The only thing that I think makes sense is the free gifts.  The gifts that are sponsored by a company.  If the company takes its time, makes it clever, and makes it interesting then it can be a great marketing tool and a fantastic way to generate some buzz around the brand.  So it makes sense to a company to pay Facebook to offer their ‘gift’ but can someone explain why I should pay for one?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.