Thursday, August 21, 2008

Getting Off Oil

I enjoy watching TEDtalks on a semi-regular basis. I think of the TED video podcast as the Discovery channel of IPTV. Normally I find the TED talks to be uplifting and giving hope in a world where people like to delivery bad news. Today I watched a talk that at once gives hope, and at the same time brings frustration that its message is being ignored.

In this talk, Amory Lovins presents ways to get the US economy off of oil while turning a profit. Amory has also co-authored a book which will be going on my reading list, Winning the Oil Endgame.

There are a few items from the talk on which I want to find more research. 1) How well does carbon fiber respond to shock (in a crash for example). 2) The cost of carbon fiber compared to aluminum or other light weight materials.

Based on the example of a friend who put 365,000 miles on a medium sized SUV and figures he has paid around $50,000 on fuel for a $17,000 SUV, I calculated my fuel costs for my Accord. I have a 2004 Honda Accord that has nearly 75,000 miles on it. Getting 29mpg that means I've run about 2586 gallons of gasoline through it. With an average cost of around $2.75 a gallon that would work out to $7,112.07 on fuel. (And that doesn't count oil changes.)

Fuel costs are a little more than 29% of what I paid for the car in late 2003. Puts in perspective what kind of premium it would make sense to pay at the car lot to save money at the gas pump. (Since I bought the cheaper 4 cylinder model instead of the six; I saved money at the lot to save even more money at the pump!)

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Makers and Doers

I have noticed this as a trend over the last 18 months or so. However I did not realize it was going "mainstream" enough to get a write up in Forbes. The following two paragraphs are lifted from the Forbes article.

YouTube's Household Hacker channel has had 8 million views for a video on how to charge an iPod with an onion. DIY, says YouTube's how-to community manager Sadia Harper, "is the new way of showing off. You used to be able to impress people by showing them things you've bought. Now it's more impressive to say, 'I made this sofa, I made this pot rack.'"


We can't get along without hackers and makers. Oil refining, woodworking, sewing machines, guns, scientific instruments and sporting goods have all been fundamentally changed by innovations from users, not producers. These "lead users," as MIT professor Eric von Hippel calls them, have had an outsized influence on the past and will continue to dictate the shape of things to come.
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

For Jerry Yang to ponder

A little over a a year ago Yahoo threw in the towel on its US Auction business. However as Ebay continues to weaken due to craigslist and sellers become dissatisfied with Ebay's practices, now would be a good time for Yahoo to go on the offensive against Ebay, if they had stayed in the game.

Every time Ebay makes a move that upsets their sellers, Yahoo should be there offering an alternative. As Jerry should well know, the web can be a fickle place. Yahoo Auctions, could benefit from Ebay's bad PR if they were still around in the US.

One long term sore spot for Ebay sellers and a key potential differentiator is payment handling. If Yahoo had an open payment interface so that sellers could accept payments with a number of payment options (Checkout by Amazon, Google Checkout, PayPal, etc.) that could win them many defecting sellers. And we all know Jerry needs the revenue.

Between Ebay fees and Paypal fees Ebay is taking around 10% of small to medium transactions. Seems like plenty of room to beat them on price and still make money.
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