Interesting post about how robots are increasing efficiency at retail warehouses. Apart from that it’s a little too close to an informercial for Kiva, the robot maker, there are some interesting facts about the development of warehouses in general.
For example how long the order to shipping process takes:
The Zappos guys claim that from the moment you put your order in and it is submitted to the time the box is on the dock and ready to be put on a truck is 12 minutes.
And some good insights in how the system adjust itself.
The system adjusts to the nature of the products and workers, too. In a typical setup, the humans are placed around the edges of the room. As the robots pick up loads of products and put them back, they adjust the warehouse for greater efficiency. More popular products end up around the edges of the warehouse while more obscure products, like those acid-washed bell bottoms, end up buried deep in the stacks. The self-tuning nature of the system creates big efficiencies.
At Amit I found this experience from Amazon’s warehouse.
When we got there, we were given small wearable computers that we velcro’d onto our forearm, and slipped a small barcode scanner over our index finger (barcode scan trigger was on the right side, clearly made for right handed people).
Everything had a barcode, and the computer told us what to do. Grab a bin; scan. Walk to this aisle, column, and row; scan. Grab this product; scan. Drop it in the bin; scan. Repeat 5-10 times, then return to the central station and unload. Generally, we never had to leave the aisle we first went down; the algorithm knew it would be faster if we walked less.
What was so fascinating is that product was everywhere. Books mixed with CDs mixed with DVDs on the same shelf. Identical copies of a book existed in multiple places. It didn’t matter, because the central computer knew where everything was.
Dogster’s reply to the closing of pets.yahoo.com. Good stuff.
It’s a shame really. Yahoo, for all it’s management failings, is one of the truly great people-positive brands. There’s so much they could have done with pets.yahoo.com if they hadn’t been floundering the last 3 years. But what’s worse is there’s so much we could have done with it for them (such as increasing revenue 10x) but they couldn’t even consider that because they had to switch over to focusing only on whale-sized deals. But Yahoo and Shince, we’re still here and will always be open to making great music together. Meanwhile we’ll be doing what the small furry mammals did when the dinosaurs became extinct and exploit the opportunity with all our abilities … after all, behaving like small furry mammals is in our nature.
Tomorrow at noon 24 hour business camp kicks off. An admirable event organized by Ted and includes 90 great internet peeps trying to build a product in 24 hours. Some of the ideas have already been presented on the blog (of course there’s a liveblog and a backchannel), it will be interesting to follow them from scratch to launch on Friday at noon.
Great initiative by Ted and everyone else involved. Time to Get Real and the best of luck to everyone.
This morning I went to the cobbler to pick up a couple of pairs that finally had recieved some much needed love. When I stood there waiting I snapped a photo of the store. When looking at the photo, it reminded me of something that’s so often missing in many places. Patina. That feeling of something that has been used thousands of times, it might need a fix from time to time but works excellent and is a companion in everyday work.
Why is this such an interesting concept? Things with patina indicates credibility. Craftmanship. Would you rather have walked in to a cobbler that looked fresh and clean like your local H&M store? I think not. When it comes to making stuff machines and tools with patina indicates credibility and trust.
Israel Sack defines patina of antiques (quoted in wikipedia).
Patina is everything that happens to an object over the course of time. The nick in the leg of a table, a scratch on a table top, the loss of moisture in the paint, the crackling of a finish or a glaze in ceramics, the gentle wear patterns on the edge of a plate. All these things add up to create a softer look, subtle color changes, a character. Patina is built from all the effects, natural and man-made, that create a true antique
The pervieced value of patina is high since it takes time and consistency to actually create patina. Russell Davies, which also inspired this post, referrs to companies such as Disney that has tried really hard to create objects with fake patina. Making things look old and used.
It seems that today the value of patina is higher than ever. Objects with a history have an increased value, for example Re-shirt story store, which is selling vintage t-shirts with a story.
To turn the attention to web sites, Russell use Flickr as an example of a site that has patina.
Flickr’s full of people and they show you evidence of those people all the time. It feels worn into place by millions of clicks rather than imposed from above by a capricious design god. And it shows you your own usage, it moulds itself to you, so it gets as familiar as an old fountain pen.
I would argue that social transparency brings patina to web sites. Still I sense that there are subtle differences in the concept of what is and what is not patina. Has Amazon patina? It has been used by millions of people every day the last 10 years but still Amazon has signage of usage as an old Wal-Mart. It’s not a community tool such as Threadless, hence it has not the same patina value. Or?
What do you think? Which site would you say have patina?
From the blog of the upcoming book Building web 2.0 reputation systems we learn why everyone on Orkut is Brazilian:
In the earliest days of Orkut (Google’s also-ran entry into social networking), the property managers featured a fun little widget at the top of the site: a country-counter, showing members’ geographical origins. Cute, right? Harmless, certainly. Google had no way of knowing, however, that the entire population of Brazil would make it a point of national pride to push their country to the top of that list! Brazilian blogger Naitze Teng writes: “Communities dedicated to raising the number of Brazilians on Orkut were following the numbers closely, planning gatherings and flash mobs to coincide with the inevitable. When it was reported that Brazilians had outnumbered Americans registered on Orkut, parties […] were thrown in celebration.”
Today, Brazil maintains its number one position on Orkut (51% of Orkut users are Brazilian as of this writing—the US and India are tied for a distant second with 17% apiece.) Orkut is—basically—a Brazilian social network. Which is not a bad “problem” for Google to have, but probably never an outcome they would have expected from such a simple, small and insignificant thing as a leaderboard widget.
Image by Moreno
For quite some time I’ve been annoyed by the Swedish catalogue company Eniro (basically the Swedish Yellow pages), mainly because they continuously fail to understand the medium they operate in. Hence they’ll have to act as an example of a company that rather heavily relies on internet revenue (30% of total revenues in 2007) but still manage to not understand how the internet works.
Most of the online revenue is coming from advertising, so attention is kind of a big deal. What they have understood is that comments and reviews are attention worthy and bring a good amount of value to the site. So the problem they see How can we get users to contribute with more reviews?
Thinking as a traditional company from the 1950’s they of course went for a full fledged advertising campaign to collect reviews from users. The result can be viewed below:
Basically it says that everyone benefit from reviews so why don’t you just go to eniro.se and write one!
They have failed in understanding the social currencies that make people engaged contributors. Their philosophy is that it’s only awareness that drive people to write reviews. If they know they can do it, they will do it. For understanding the underlying factors of contribution Joshua Porter has a good introduction, embedded below.
To use an example of a site that has been successful and based their value proposition solely on user participation and reviews we’ll take a short look on Yelp.
Yelp was founded in 2004 as a fun place to review local establishments such as restaurants, bars or just any local establishment. Yelp also started out very local, engaging people through parties and events; the Yelp parties quickly became infamous and widely talked about. This helped them slowly build an audience and a very distinct group of members that turns to Yelp to review every local bar, hairdresser, restaurant and so on. Yelp connected with outgoing people, who often act as influencers in their social group. The key for Yelp was to, city by city, find these influencers and get a engaged locally in every new city they expanded to.
They also highlight the most active users through making them part of the so-called Yelp Elite (Again, Joshua Porter has a good write up about it). Being part of this get you a symbol next to your username which gives them a social status within the Yelp community. These users also get invited to special gatherings where they get recognized; as a special “thank you-note from Yelp.
Eniro should look at examples like this and see if they have the DNA to serve users this way, if so they need to rethink some of their decisions. Or if they rather should look for partners that are doing this better than they are.
Both of these companies are right now having different kinds of momentum. Joost just killed their desktop application to refocus on a web only presence, while Boxee just closed a series A round of financing and is getting ready to leave the alpha stage.
Boxee motto is to open up the television, firing it up with new content from partners such as Hulu and YouTube. They’re focusing solely on the distribution form, getting great content from the web to the television.
Joost seems, in retrospective, to be the typical founder-just-turned-billionaire syndrome. When ambitious founders are trying to do everything, without being particularly good on anything. Sure they had a promising desktop client when they came out, but it always seemed better as a television interface than a desktop application.
Instead of focusing on the distribution solely they made the mistake of entering the jungle of lawyers that is the content business. Trying to partner with major studios slowed down the technical development as well as leaving the application in limbo between having a kind of ok desktop app and poor-as-hell content.
Swimsuit contests will bring you one audience but not the mainstream billion dollar potential audience. And swimsuits isn’t a value proposition on the web, you have a possibility to find that elsewhere. Let’s leave it at that.
But if Joost instead had tried the open proposition, which is where the founders are coming from, they could have syndicated aggregators content and provided a hackable and re-mixable platform for the television. This would have been an interesting offering, instead Boxee is arriving one and a half year later and doing just that.
Joost got lost in loads of money and unfocused management. Boxee seems to be having a much more focused mission together with getting to market with a good timing, when both people and hardware is just getting ready to get their television online. I’m excited to follow Boxee on it’s road to success and sad to see Joost go down as it has done.
Photo by autowitch
(Sorry for the radio silence, due to personal reasons I haven’t had any motivation to blog the last couple of months. Will try to get back to the normal schedule starting now.)
Great presentation from Matt Jones & Russel Davies. A lot of interesting projects are being discussed about making the invisible visible and using existing resources to create something new. It’s from the DO Lectures, have yet to go through the other videos but it looks promising.