June 18, 2013

My Google Reader starred posts archive

Google Reader shuts down on July 1, and as a die-hard fan, I am going to miss it.

While I'm busy exporting my feed list and re-establishing my RSS reading elsewhere, I'm reminded that I often used the starring function to call out posts of note. Of course, the truth is that I rarely returned to my starred items, and with minimal social network tie-ins, those favorited posts never got much exposure.

So I'm resurfacing them here for posterity--fully, more or less, despite the fact that I have a lot of links from 2009 and earlier that make no sense to me now, or that just aren't interesting anymore. For one reason or another, they were interesting then, and they deserve to be archived. And, naturally, some of my favorite blogs over the six-plus years I've been living in Reader don't seem to have been starred along the way, like Alice and Kev, which will keep you riveted if you read it chronologically.

Regardless. From items I liked to items I wanted to revisit later (and likely never did), herewith, my Google Reader faves archive, in reverse chronological order, with occasional (present-day, in parentheses) annotations.

May 22, 2013

Digital facts of the day

There are now around 130 million smartphone users and at least 55 million tablet users in the U.S. market. Among other trends, 15% of ecommerce transactions will be completed on mobile and tablet devices this year, a number that will only continue to grow.

While this is a prime opportunity to gain market share and--still--establish first-mover advantage, 45% of marketers don't have a mobile presence, either with apps or optimized websites.

When I was working at Ai we would annually update our stump speech for mobile. "2009 is going to be the year of mobile." "2010 is really the year of mobile--our clients' stats show smartphone usage on their sites tripled last year." Now, in 2013, mobile and tablet use is starting to drive the digital economy, in a shift that is not going to turn back around. Yet many brands have not capitalized on the opportunity. If not now, when?

May 17, 2013

Parallels in Internet history

April 1999: Yahoo! buys GeoCities.

"A $3.6 billion deal that will further solidify Yahoo!'s position as a frontrunner in the online popularity contest. ...

"GeoCities (GCTY) is the third most visited site on the Web behind AOL and Yahoo!, with 19 million unique visitors in December, according to Web research company Media Metrix.

"GeoCities sets up communities of people who share similar interests and allows customers to create their own home page on the Internet.

"A deal would likely propel Yahoo! to the top rated site in terms of traffic, but it's not clear how much the two sites' individual audience overlap. ...

"Through GeoCities, Yahoo! will be able to distribute a range of editing tools and content published through personal homepages in an array of services. ..."

May 2013: Will Yahoo Try to Get Its "Cool Again" by Doing a Deal for Tumblr?

"CFO Ken Goldman ... said Yahoo needed to be 'cool again.' ...

"Tumblr ... focuses heavily on user-generated content, largely text and photos, although there is an increasing use of video on the site. ...

"Any kind of deal with Tumblr could certainly bring Yahoo a big, young audience. Its worldwide traffic was at 117 million visitors in April, according to comScore. On its home page, Tumblr claims it has 107.8 million blogs and 50.6 billion posts."

At the time of its acquisition, GeoCities posted a net loss for the year of $19.8 million alongside a $2.3 billion pre-Yahoo market cap. Tumblr generated $13 million in revenue last year and has a reported valuation of $800 million.

May 16, 2013

Timely Demise: Where are they now?

A friend recently discovered and fell in love with Timely Demise, my chronicle of the compression of American retailing in the last recession. I hadn't really looked at the site since it closed, and as I started poking through the archives, I got curious about the final outcomes of the activities we tracked in the moment.

Researching the bankruptcies and acquisitions chronicled in the blog, I was able to get concrete updates on 40 of the larger entities. Here's how they wound up:

  • Eighteen of them (45%) are gone, either through Chapter 7 liquidations or just closing up shop. Extrapolated across the hundreds of companies we covered, this percentage would undoubtedly be higher, given the amount of smaller brands and mom-and-pop stores we wrote about.
  • Seven (18%) were acquired and continue operating, including individual brands (Stila, J. Jill), retail brands (Crabtree & Evelyn) and multi-store chains (Better Bedding).
  • Four firms continued operating but encountered more trouble after their appearances in Timely Demise, including Fortunoff (which ended up closing all its stores, then reopening a few more targeted stores) and Reader's Digest (which has returned to bankruptcy but continues to publish).
  • Now to the good news. Five companies emerged cleanly from bankruptcy and continue operations.
  • Four firms shrunk but are still in business in some form.
  • And four firms we wrote about look as though it's business as usual for them, having weathered the recession and resumed their growth trajectories in recent years, some with admirable results. La-Z-Boy, we recline in a toast to you.

February 11, 2013

What I learned about cars today, February 11

Maserati's "downmarket" Quattroporte--estimated base price: $125,000--utilizes the same nav system as a $15,995 Dodge Dart.

The Tesla Model S is a marvel of engineering, an electric car that doesn't disappoint driving enthusiasts, but medium-distance drives can result in dead batteries and flatbed tows.

"Carwasheros" is a word. (source)

January 14, 2013

What I learned today, January 14

The air quality in Beijing reached 755 on a 0-to-500 scale over the weekend. Chinese officials called the pollution "crazy bad." In comparison, New York City's air quality index on Saturday was 19. (via kottke.org)

January 7, 2013

The best-selling albums of all time

Per independent research, the top 10 albums and millions of copies sold, worldwide:

1. Michael Jackson, "Thriller": 66,200,000
2. Soundtrack, "Grease": 44,700,000
3. Pink Floyd, "The Dark Side of the Moon": 44,200,000
4. Whitney Houston et al., "The Bodyguard": 38,600,000
5. The Bee Gees at al., "Saturday Night Fever": 37,200,000
6. The Eagles, "Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975": 36,900,000
7. Bob Marley, "Legend": 36,800,000
8. Led Zeppelin, "IV": 35,700,000
9. AC/DC, "Back in Black": 35,700,000
10. Shania Twain, "Come on Over": 35,400,000

Domestically, the U.S. top-selling albums list isn't all that different, but it's somewhat cheesier.

1. Michael Jackson, Thriller, Epic, 29,000,000
2. Eagles, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), Asylum, est. 29,000,000
3. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV, Atlantic, 23,000,000
4. Billy Joel, Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II, Columbia, 11,500,000
5. Pink Floyd, The Wall, Columbia/Capitol, 11,500,000
6. AC/DC, Back in Black, Atlantic, 22,000,000
7. Garth Brooks, Double Live, Capitol Nashville, 21,000,000
8. Shania Twain, Come On Over, Mercury Nashville, est. 21,000,000
9. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Warner Bros., 19,000,000
10. The Beatles, The Beatles (White Album), Apple, 9,500,000

Just below the top 10 in the U.S. are several of the global top sellers, plus "Boston," which apparently doesn't scale on a worldwide level.

January 2, 2013

How industry consolidation affects you: rental cars

Renting a car? These are the major options by brand name:


But this is the corporate landscape, pending FTC approval of two recent deals:

Hertz Global Holdings (Hertz, Thrifty, Dollar)
Avis Budget Group (Avis, Budget, Zipcar)
Enterprise Holdings (Enterprise, Alamo, National)

Nine brands, three car companies. Remember that next time you try threatening the guy at the airport that you'll walk over to the next counter.

This is the first in a series of summaries of industries whose corporate consolidation has led to a small number of players controlling the majority of the market, creating oligopolies in the mass market.

The year in cities, 2012

Eighth edition: listed here are the places I visited over the past 12 months. Per the annual rules, only overnights are listed; repeat visits are denoted with an asterisk (even those that I last visited five or 10 years ago; previously, I used a dagger, but it's gotten redundant).

New York *
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Orlando, FL *
Washington, DC *
New City, NY *
Livingston, NJ *
Hong Kong *
Blue Bell, PA
Bellevue, WA
Montauk, NY
Gloucester, MA *
St. Thomas, USVI *
Short Hills, NJ
Hawley, PA *
Palm Beach Gardens, FL *
Lake Buena Vista, FL *
Lakewood, NJ

December 25, 2012

What I learned today (yesterday, really), December 24-25

Americans are 6 percent more likely to get in an automobile accident on April 15: "tax day, likely due to driver distraction caused by stress."

Other interesting car crash facts: men are responsible for 57% of all crashes, but if it's due to mashing the wrong pedal, there's a two-thirds chance a woman was behind the wheel; automobile fatalities are now just 15% as frequent as they were sixty years ago; thanks to reduced fatality rates, fewer people died in an accident last year than they did in 1949, when the population of the United States was less than 150 million.

December 6, 2012

An incomplete list of words starting with the letter "K" as suggested by the K-112 class at PS 87 this morning


November 20, 2012

What I learned today, November 18

The odds of a U.S. resident getting killed by terrorism from Islamic extremists are roughly the same as dying in a bathtub.

November 11, 2012

Things a man shouldn't say on a first date, as evidenced by the awkward couple seated to my right at Nice Matin earlier this evening

"No, thanks, I'm pretty sure I'm allergic."

"Well, they say the proper body-mass index is..."

October 30, 2012


I am, oddly, almost apologetic to note in this space that I have little to report personally on the storm.

My family was out of town for the weekend ahead of Sandy's arrival; we cut our trip short for safety purposes, got home Sunday evening with a responsible amount of food and bottled water, stormproofed the windows a bit, filled the bathtub, checked our flashlights and candles, and put the kids to bed. Then we watched TV and Twitter for a few hours, cast a wary eye at the wind-rattled windows, and went to bed ourselves as the flooding crested. We woke up to normal power and water while most of the region lacked one or both. Today we walked around a bit, hung out, took something of a family day. Could be a lot worse.

Which is not to say things are perfect. I'm way behind on my work. Our child care situation this week is going to be interesting. But relatively speaking, we came out great. I can only hope my friends and colleagues in less fortunate areas emerge as well in the coming days.

Tomorrow I report to a conference room at a sister company for what hopes to be a productive day at work. My team dealt with multiple deadlines this afternoon, many of them working through power outages. Life goes on. Even when it's wet, and dark, and strange.

September 28, 2012

Formerly known as

A few days ago my last company disappeared.

Well, not exactly disappeared and not exactly a few days ago. But in a press release dated Monday, the ecommerce shop I founded, Canopy Commerce, was rebranded and folded back into its parent company, Alexander Interactive.

Canopy lasted roughly two years and built a successful portfolio of client work. We launched some pretty good stuff, frankly ("incredible success," per the press release) and had a pretty good time doing so. Several Canopy employees rolled into Ai with the name change, ensuring a smooth transition.

Back in 2010, when I was creating Canopy with Ai's owners, I advocated having a business unit and not a standalone company, so I am neither shocked nor disappointed that Canopy is now Ai-branded. My CEO role wasn't filled after I left, so this is a logical step.

I have been thinking a lot about this, though, and about the ephemeral nature of employment in general. I now have worked for three companies whose names no longer exist, not to mention my own currently dormant consulting shop. While one former employer became a client of mine, 13 years later, I'm at the point where I don't even know how to refer to some others.

For better or worse, people identify heavily with the work they do and where they do it. I typically recite with pride the places I've been, which is made harder when they disappear. It's a little soulless, a little confusing, a little disjointed. People's recall lessens. Web searches become less fruitful. LinkedIn profiles get messy. (I rolled up my Canopy title into Ai on my profile, for example.)

This is the nature of the business world, of course. I should be used to it as someone who specializes in Internet projects, where entire companies can disappear in a click; even my own website archives are full of missing files. But employers gone missing resonates in a different way.

Farewell, Canopy. We had an interesting run.





The concoction
3 parts observation
2 parts introspection
1 part links
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dash of sarcasm

The history
The Ideapad debuted on November 1, 1998 and has been through numerous incarnations through the years. It is now a weblog and personal journal. Ideapad is one of the world's oldest continually publishing blogs.
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David Wertheimer is an Internet industry veteran, an author of Usability: The Site Speaks for Itself and a writer and speaker on Internet business topics. He is director of strategy at Alexander Interactive, a boutique agency in New York. Read more
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