Thursday, September 01, 2011

Why People Avoid the TTC

After a few months of taking the TTC, I can confidently say that I understand why people drive to work.

Let me list a few experiences (that I know others share).

1.  South-bound Yonge Subway at Rush Hour
("Getting farther with others than you usually do on a first date")

I get on at Lawrence, which isn't too bad.  Train is probably almost full, but there is still a bit of room here and there to stand.  Train departs Lawrence...then proceeds to move at "walking speed" with frequent near-stops all the way down to Eglinton.  Eglinton is the first station where people are left waiting for the next train...unless they decide to push in.  Recently, one lady said "F@#$ it" and shoved in without much room.  This only encouraged others to do the same - in some sort of "No Passenger Left Behind" moment.  It felt like those Japan videos, minus the people on the outside helping to shove more people in.

2.  TTC Workers Getting Paid to Socialize
("Chillin' with my homies")

Alright, you've all seen them.  In a solution designed sometime in the 70's, the TTC has put a bunch of workers throughout the Bloor/Yonge station.  What are they doing?  Socializing with each other.  I need to take a photo of this - really feels like my tax dollars are working hard.  I know they are there with the idea of passenger safety and to guide traffic - but this is the wrong solution to a larger problem.

3.  Streetcar Drivers Filling out Paperwork while Driving
("Multi-tasking at it's best")

This was hilarious - I pulled the line for the streetcar to stop, and the driver kept on going.  I was at the back of the longer streetcar, so I had to get up front, and he completely ignored me.  He kept filling out his paperwork, and stopped at the next stop (3 stops later) without looking up or any other form of acknowledgement.  After I got off, I realized this was a clear case for taking a photo.

4.  Solution?  Extend Lines Further North!
("So which Councillor owns a condo development company building in Vaughn?")

Extend the Spadina line further north!  Vaughn People - come enjoy the Subway at rush hour!
Sheppard extensions!!  Awesome - more people connected to the city!

Wait.  What does this do to solve passenger congestion getting to the core?  Oh, it doesn't solve it, it makes it worse.


We have new trains offering 10% more capacity, and the ability to move around.  Potentially a new signalling system.  Eglinton LRT from Black Creek to Kennedy (which may only make the rush-hour-into-the-core issue worse, we'll see).  (Link)

Wait - where is the solution?  Oh yeah - if you work downtown, drive.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

Love this - it can be used from anything from business process to cleaning the house.

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

iPad - forget Netbook killer...PC Killer?

As a Canadian, I hadn't spend much time with the iPad...until yesterday at a customer site. Very impressive. Programmer types may not like it because it's restrictive, but end users love it. Reading newspapers is an unbelievable experience...not to mention photos, video, browsing, etc.

And this is only the start for apps (not to mention OS4 and some major needed updates like multi-tasking).

So, let's talk about netbooks. What are (were?) they? Crappy, low-cost laptops. For $400 I could get a small clam-shelled device that tried to keep up the PC experience. Aside from the price point, ultra-portables like some of the VIAO's were much, much better. The user experience of a netbook was generally poor compared to a true laptop. And suh...low....

Basically, Netbooks are too confusing for the market. Check out these stats from last year:

  • 60% of the people interviewed by NPD who purchased a netbook instead of a notebookthought their netbooks would have the same functionality as notebooks.
  • 58% who bought a netbook instead of a notebook said they were “very satisfied” with their purchase, compared to 70% who planned on buying a notebook from the get-go.
  • In the 18- to 24- year old group, the group that many commenters said would embrace netbooks, 65% said they bought their netbooks expecting better performance; only 27% said that netbook performance exceeded their expectations.
  • Portability is a big selling point for netbooks and a point that many commenters brought up, but 60% of the people surveyed said that they never even took their netbooks out of the house.

One interesting question is: Isn't the iPad a netbook? Let's look at Wikipedia's definition of netbook:
Netbooks (sometimes also called mini notebooks or ultraportables) are a branch of subnotebooks, a rapidly evolving[1] category of small, lightweight, and inexpensive laptop computers suited for general computing and accessing Web-based applications; they are often marketed as "companion devices", i.e., to augment a user's other computer access.[1]

Aside from the implied meaning of laptop (ie clam shell), it's hard to argue that the iPad is not a netbook.

Ok, how about previous tablets? We all know Microsoft tried over and over to bring a tablet PC to the market. The pitch was great, but ultimately they couldn't get any traction. More recently, Microsoft has failed pretty hard at tablets:
Windows 7 is a wonderful operating system, but when coupled with a small screen and a veneer of touch capabilities, it is hardly a pleasant experience. In other words, even if the hardware was excellent, the user experience was destined to be lacking. That it died is merely indicative of larger problems, and not real cause for upset.

So....what's the difference?

Well, as many others think, I tend to agree that this is because Apple come "up" rather than "down". Both Netbooks and Tablets suffered from trying to take the PC or laptop experience down to a tablet/netbook...rather than a smartphone experience up.

Sure, there are people who still believe in Netbooks - they have flash, a camera, USB ports and a full OS.

Let's go back to that customer discussion. A few who have bought an iPad (and have a high-end ultra-portable) are now ONLY taking the iPad on business trips. They don't use cloud-apps - but for presenting (ie PPT), reading email (web-based corporate email), news, and stock-tracking...there isn't any need for the laptop.

So yes, I wonder as well if the iPad is truly a game-changer and will ultimately affect the entire laptop market. As a traveller myself, I can see a BlackBerry and iPad as all I need.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yelp - 2.5/5 stars

I read through this article with great interest. I think the author does a pretty good job of being fair and balanced, with a slight opinion tip in Yelps favour. Be sure to read past the first page, when the article gets into some good details on Yelp itself.

This "opportunity" has been very interesting to me in the past few years. Specifically, finding great restaurants and associated nightlife easily has always been a problem. This naturally leads to some sort of web site with a master list of data + reviews. Yelp is this - basically, a or minus the "we moved the magazine online" element and added user generated reviews and facebook-lite. Of course they have now turned into a larger directory - from dentists to religious organizations.

They figured out the Community Manager position - which is highly effective local marketing. This is VSB (very small business) - to get to them, you have to call them. As per the article, many owners in their listings are probably not that web-savvy.

Here comes the "but". I don't believe that the simple rating system is all that effective. Can the average person write an honest review? Can they separate their experience from that night with the places they went? For example, I had a bad experience because I went out with boring friends...but don't admit my friends are boring; so the bar gets 2/5?

The conclusion of the article sums it up well:

Of course, it's easy to see why so many business owners, faced with millions of Yelpers, each capable of ruining or at least damaging a business, choose to look on the bright side. Jane Reddin, who owns a crafts store in Phoenix, complains to me for 10 minutes straight about Yelp, assailing the company's business model, its arrogant salespeople, and the stupidity of the average Yelp reviewer. "They don't know what they're talking about," she says. "It's as if they're complaining that the gazpacho is cold."

She does go on to mention she likes the community aspect of Yelp. Seems like she likes Yelp for other people's businesses, but not for her own..:)

What is also interesting is the sense that something is off in how the owner, Jeremy Stoppelman is portrayed. At least I hope so. Read this quote:

"The most frustrating thing is talking to owners who say, 'Yelp has been great,' and then they think for a minute and remember the one negative review. I understand that people want to be heard, but you're meeting the Yelp founder, and all you want to talk about is a single review that doesn't even matter in the grand scheme of things. I don't understand that."

To a small restaurant in a downtown, competitive area? It does matter. Look at this restaurant, Riva on Yelp. One review, because the reviewer believed that the cook was "PSYCHO" and gave her a bad look.

This is why I don't believe in the ratings model at work here. Their 5 star ratings system is very basic - there is some text when you mouse over, but is that clear enough? What are you actually rating? Compare to a Zagat - where food, decor, price, decor and cost are all rated so you can "slice and dice". Too bad their interface is suh-low.

And finally, here is the negative article on Yelp - claiming sales people are offering to move negative reviews for a monthly fee. Here is Yelp's response.

Yelp is doing a pretty good job - sort of a 1.0 on this. And they will certainly exit for a ton. But there still remains another answer/opportunity/extension here...

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Track flights mashup (Google Maps)

This is a prototype created to show flights coming in and out of Amsterdam. Cool stuff.

You can see it in action here.

Source: Live Flight tracking with Google Maps. Neat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Do It

Fun video, worth sharing.

Reminds me of the journey video done last year in cyprus by some IT people on vacation...which was wrongfully derided. The video is there too - it looks fun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Facebook isn't the Next

A lot of people over the past couple years have suggested that facebook will eventually flame out - once the hype gets too much and the profits don't appear.

Well, it turns out they are wrong. Facebook is profitable, and has 300 Million users.

50 million new users in the last 75 days.


So they aren't going anywhere. In fact, it appears to have become part of the daily/weekly social interaction cycle. People understand the privacy issue, but the benefits outweigh the risks. It's much easier to share and stay involved in your friends/family's lives.

Some thoughts going forward:
  • facebook is flickr+myspace+blogger+email+games+etc. Sounds like a platform. Is it already? (hint: yes)
  • With the advances in the mobile space - will the line between privacy and social benefit become more difficult? Think: facebook adds google lattitude - you can now see where your friends physically are at any moment....even if your phone doesn't have GPS.
  • Facebook competition: it's going to be really, really, really hard to unseat facebook. Probably just as hard, if not harder, than google for search.
  • What is the net impact on culture, both locally and globally? This is a degree of sharing never seen will this change us?
  • What is the "facebook for business" answer? There are many, many startups out there trying to answer this, and I think they're mostly wrong.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Windows Phone

There is unbelievable excitement in the mobile world these days. Both Android and the iPhone are moving to the next level with Augmented Reality functionality - and Android stands to get even further. With the OS separated from the hardware, there are all sorts of opportunities. The Apple strategy of OS+Hardware+Control will probably limit them in the end. Look for Android to be hitting some big time strides next year.

So where is Microsoft in all of this? They are re-branding from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone with the next OS release, 6.5. What else? When I watched the video below, I found myself saying "Yeah...So?" What is really new? Maybe the tag stuff, but...meh.

And don't get me started on when he said (along the lines of) "Not very pretty - but it doesn't need to be pretty." Really? A consumer phone....doesn't need to be pretty? It reminds me of their commercials...

EDIT: Found the video on Youtube and embedded it here. Some of these other video sites are ridiculous - autoplay? Are you serious?

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Footage of the Storm

As most know, a blistering storm came through Southern Ontario last night. It seemed like just another one - we have many, many tropical-style 30-min-to-1-hr storms come through this summer.

Last night was much worse. Check out the footage:

This one probably requires Internet Explorer (CBC - really...WMV??)

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