Archive for the 'Ralston Ventures' Category

Google’s 20% Incomplete Products

March 11, 2008

Google has always flaunted it’s 20% time idea, where engineers are encouraged to take some random ideas and come up with products any decent product marketing company would have already had on the roadmap.  Of course, maybe they like it that way, so until GOOG hits $200 they can continue to do that kind of thing.

The problem is that with that 20%, a lot of Google products could really be useful, such as:

– Google Reader:  The links in the start page work, so after you read the teaser, the link clicks through to the same page.  This was probably a 20% time project enhancement that ran out of time.

– Gmail: Great, you made it easy to manage multiple accounts, except when I send an email with on of them, it says send “on behalf of” my google account which I prefer to keep private.  Maybe Google could use some of that 20% time and realize that’s likely a fixable issue.

–  Google Search: Believe it or not, the answer to every question is not a blog.  Since you can’t tell an engineer what to do with their 20% time, let’s hope it comes to them in a vision.

You’re right, Google’s 20% time isn’t causing 80% of the problems.

Carson Daly Daily Comedy

December 2, 2007

After seeing what The Smoking Gun picked up from Carson Daily, begging anyone he knows to call in to his voicemail and leave a joke, my day in the spotlight can’t be far away.

I think it’s just Carson’s way of saying, yes I know you’d be great as a writer on my show but I can’t cross the writers strike picket line, so go ahead and call me with all your amazing joketastic talents.

Open Letter to Carson Daly

November 3, 2007

Last Call with Carson Daly
c/o NBC Studios (stage 9)
3000 W Alameda Ave
Burbank, CA 

Dear Carson,

With the impending writers strike, I’m posting an open letter to offer my services as an almost-professional comedic writer in your time of need.

Luckily, I’ve seen your show and I know that you’re not losing much if the writers strike on Monday.  Double lucky, I know I can maintain the average comedic level of your show.  Triple lucky, I know the viewers don’t expect much and nothing else will be new on TV.

The best part for you is that I’m willing to work for free because I need to prove myself before Kimmel will hire me.

Sincerely,
Bill

ps.  Look for the internet to gain a lot of popularity if this writers strike lasts for more than a few days.  Why? 

– Because TV ratings will go down even further (and this time the people may not come back – the fall lineup is terrible)

– Because all the new content generation will be done on the web for a while

– Because some enterprising young comedian will take the place of the reruns of all the late night shows with their own daily comedy show (is funnyordie.com impacted by the writers strike?)

– Because it provides an opportunity for video, podcasts, and other produced compilations from online companies to make a bigger splash and fill the pipeline for TV shows that still decide to report business and entertainment news.

Update: Techcrunch paraphrases Tony’s post 3 days later, and lights up 100% algorithm Techmeme.  I can’t figure out if the writers strike or blogs are a bigger joke.

Google Price Fixing with Ad Quality

October 24, 2007

When you own 50% of any market, especially one that supplies mostly small and medium businesses, you’ve got a great opportunity to take pricing.

Take pricing?  Yep, just raise the minimum CPC on those PPC ads, and you can add millions to the bottom line.  How?  Something Google is calling Ad Quality, and because they are taking pricing, they need a new tool to show people their ads now have poor Ad Quality.

But Google does no evil, they save puppies, and don’t flaunt their private jets or exclusive Federal runways. 

Great, here’s a real life example that can only be explained by Google taking pricing:

* Created a new ad in Adwords for a very specific keyword and landing page
(both requirements for good Ad Quality)

* The keyword ran for a total of zero impressions
(Google must already know the keyword with existing data or it’s an Ad Quality issue)

* Traffic Estimate tool says that Google doesn’t have enough data on the keyword
(Ok, so it has to be an Ad Quality issue since it didn’t have any impressions)

* The brand new Ad Quality (price fixing) tool shows that the Ad Quality is ok
(Now I don’t get it, it’s neither data or Ad Quality, seems like you want me to spend more money without giving an actual reason other than you run the ad network)

The best part about this whole pricing scam is that Google, because they’re not evil, gives you the chance to buy your way out of the problem.  It says, just increase your bid, then your ad quality won’t matter as much.  I finally found a need for Yahoo.

Fire Protection 2.0

October 24, 2007

I love that quote about history repeating itself, especially if the event only happens every year. 

The talk of the week has been the absurd imbalance in property taxes and how everyone forgot they were coming.  I can’t wait for the legislation that requires impounds instead of leaving it for someone to save on their own.  Good thing you can put in on a credit card!

Now we have the Southern California fires and because it’s been a few years, we didn’t bother to figure out a new way to fight them.  New delivery mechanism?  New chemical?  Nope, still got hundreds of guys in trucks with limited water supply and shovels.  That’s right, shovels.  Maybe they’d be more comfortable in a covered wagon and burlap sack.  And once those guys kill themselves, then we try to drop some water or pepto bismol and get it over with.

I don’t understand why we put a single person on the ground.  We’ve got trained military pilots that can drop a bomb from 10,000 ft with precision, so if we let them get within 1,000 ft they’d probably not hit too many houses.  Since the best attack is always from the air, but is the most difficult to do because we have to fly too close to the ground, seems to me we should develop a delivery system for the pepto and be done with it.

Believe it or not, Boeing is at least trying.  Of course, the better solution is a bigger container, possibly with a compressed air timed explosion that could disperse the pepto once the retardant bomb was at the optimal height for coverage.   It can’t be that difficult, and it’s far cheaper than all the overtime the ground crews are racking up. 

We can chat about this in two years when the fires are back and we’re still sending firefighters to risk their lives.

Analysis of 23andme by a Genotyping Expert

September 14, 2007

The second biggest blunder in Google’s history, only to the Google Jet having access to a private Federal runway, is the 23andme conflict of interest.

Conflicts aside, it’s always helpful to know how what these genome startups are doing, so I asked an expert in the field of genotyping and genetics (who is open to new consulting projects).

How hard is it to do genotyping via SNP?
It isn’t hard at all until you try to do a lot of it.  In research, you look at SNPs pretty regularly and it is very easy when looking at one at a time.

Trying to look at all the SNPs in a genome at once is a lot harder. You couldn’t possibly look at them all so you use informatics tools to define informative sets of SNPs then ignore the rest. This still leaves many many SNPs to look at so this is cutting edge technology.

What’s the benefit to knowing this genetic information?
Countless things you can do with this info.

First of all this is the beginning of personalized medicine. Once we have this information for large numbers of people we will be able to figure out why one medicine works for one patient and not for another and doctors will be able to better treat people with this information.

That is the good stuff but you will also be far better at predicting possible health problems, which is great for preventative medicine, but is scary if your health care provider gets this info and decides to charge you more or not cover those things you are at risk for.

Another interesting but dangerous application is precisely defining peoples ethnic makeup. Once we know this information for many populations of people we will be able to say for example that someone is 18% Scottish 42% Irish 27% German and 13% English. Cool, but what if someone decides to descriminate against you because you aren’t 100% caucasian? And there are many more things to do with the data as well, no wonder Google and Genetech are involved.

Has the human genome been mapped?
Yeah that has been done for about 5 years with tweaks every now and then. It was originally defined for about 6 individuals. The original effort took A LOT of work and money. Technology has been improving and price is coming down quickly. The cost of DNA sequencing/genotyping roughly follows Moore’s Law.

What’s a genome?
Yeah every organism has a genome. Every cell has the same DNA as all the other cells in your body. So since we know the entire genome for the 6 people I mentioned above we can just look at the SNPs for everyone else and merge the two to know each individuals genome.

How much does this cost?
In a lab it could be done for $2 per SNP. I would guess 23andme is looking at 10s of thousands of SNPs, so the lab price is $50,000. There is a huge economy of scale here with new equipment and custom software for processing and analytics, but their price will likely be very low.