Amazon announced Prime Air and posted a page with four frequently asked questions, three of which are asked and answered an awful lot like the “what’s Amazon’s biggest weakness” and “Amazon’s biggest weakness is that we love consumer’s TOO much” BS you often see at bad interviews.
Here, then, are my actual questions:
How close to a distribution center do I have to live in order to qualify for Prime Air delivery?
I’ve read that the answer to this is that you’ll have to live within a 10 mile radius of an Amazon distribution center in order to qualify for Air Prime delivery. In other words, if a given distribution center is the hub of an imaginary circle, you’ll have to live within 10 miles in any direction of that hub.
I’m terrible at math, but came up with this:
Amazon has around 39 distribution centers which translates to a Prime Air delivery zone of approximately 1225 square miles. There are 3.794 million square miles in the US. That’s an Air Prime reach of roughly .03 percent.
Granted, a great deal of the US isn’t populated, but even with that in mind (unless the 10 mile radius information is wrong) most people simply won’t be able to take advantage of this unless Amazon goes crazy with new distribution centers.
What do we do with the yellow plastic tubs that packages are delivered in?
Surely we don’t have to ship those back to Amazon? That would negate the green benefits that Bezos highlighted. Do they pile up in our houses over the years?
What’s the expected cost?
Knowing Amazon, Air Prime is going to be free to anyone who pays the yearly fee to be an Amazon Prime subscriber, but I still think that at some point the cost of Prime is going to go up. Something has got to give.
As more and more features are added to prime, Amazon stands to lose more money. At this point, 2-day shipping is free, some books are free, a lot of instant movies and TV shows are free, and so on. All of those services cost Amazon money. Some of the services are interesting to me, others not so much. Does Prime at some point become a la carte? $79 per year gets you any three services? $200 a year for everything?
How many drones can operate at one time?
As neat as the test video looks, a controlled test isn’t the same thing as hundreds of orders coming in at one time with overlapping flight paths and delivery zones.
What about congested urban areas?
Less populated areas are probably easier to target, but less likely to be near a distribution center. Populated areas might be in an Air Prime delivery zone but could be logistical nightmares: More people to injure. Power lines to avoid. Delivery targets that simply may not exist. Birds. How can Amazon possibly account for all those factors?
Perhaps Bezos has already solved these problems, but when their idea of a frequently asked question is “is this science fiction” and the answer to that question is “oh, it’s real, bitches” with no real explanation for the optimism, it’s hard to take Bezos seriously — especially when the earliest possible timeline appears to be at least two years out.
Bezos is a marketing genius, it would seem. He’s announced something so cool that those of us with valid questions are immediately chastised for being downers. If, in two years, nothing materializes, Amazon will likely have moved on to the next big promise.
How long will it be before their typical boy-ish behavior gets them suspended from school? How long before they get suspended from daycare??? How long will it be before one of them gets upset with a friend, tells that friend to go away and leave them alone, and subsequently gets labeled as a bully?
I responded with my thoughts on Facebook, but I thought I’d compile that response here as well:
The problem with Metz’s post isn’t what she says, which is all incredibly blasé and obvious and written from the perspective of someone who doesn’t seem to have ever really experienced anything that would cause her (or her toddlers) any reason to ever think with any real nuance or insight.
In short, it’s boring as fuck, but no less dangerous for it.
You see this same sort of thing coming from straight people who just don’t understand why the gay community can’t simply be happy for who they are. This crowd doesn’t see much point in spending so much time worrying about issues facing the gay and lesbian community. After all, things have never been better, right?
They put approximately half a second of thought into the issue and they use that to spend a couple hours formulating a rant. They then throw in some common-sense platitudes and completely gloss over all the real problems and then bask in the supportive comments while getting frustrated when people want to have a real discussion that actually addresses real issues. It’s simple for them, and thus they reason that it should be simple for everyone.
Meanwhile, they’ve no fucking idea what they’re talking about because — in most cases — they’ve never experienced the reality that other people actually have to live with.
Metz goes on to create ridiculous straw men (similar to the War on Christmas nonsense that ramps up at this time of year every year) by worrying that her boys might be labeled as bullies or, worse, pulled aside as threats, because they like to play with toy guns.
(What kind of parent proactively worries that her kids might be labeled bullies? Bizarre.)
No, Stephanie Metz. A million times no. Your kids are going to be labeled bullies if they grow up to be assholes who do not have the capacity for empathy. They’re going to be labeled bullies if they prey on the fears and insecurities of other children in an effort to make themselves feel big and strong.
Ultimately, Metz’s concerns don’t line up with real-world scenarios, and they play to the dumb right-wing mantra that we all just need to grow a pair and get back to the way things were when MEN WERE FUCKING MEN.
Fuck her for being so naive and fuck everyone else who thinks she has something important or interesting to say on the subject.
There are [B]ullies, and there are [b]ullies. A shitload of kids bully other kids and then they grow out of it and they grow up to be decent people and that’s the sort of thing that most other kids have to learn to deal with.
That’s called life. Name calling happens. Petty fights happen. Lunch money gets stolen. In some cases, yes, it would be great if the kids who face this would pop the kids who perpetuate it in the mouth, especially if it ends the cycle.
If one of Stephanie Metz’s kids grows up and is a boy being a boy (as parents of assholes often couch the issue) and makes fun of people or thinks it’s funny to belittle or (physically or mentally) hurt others, and someone has had enough and bloodies his nose, I sincerely hope that’s as far as it goes and that Metz tells her boy that that’s the sort of thing that happens when you’re an asshole to the wrong person, for too long. “So, don’t be an asshole!”
Or, better yet, someone at school in a position of authority finds out about the behavior and, yes, kicks his smarmy little ass out of school until he learns to co-exist with other people who want to have fun (with toy guns, even!) and grow up without someone’s precious little asshole tormenting them.
When that doesn’t happen, you get the Richie Incognitos of the world who do not grow out of it, who sometimes benefit because of it, who kept going without ever getting popped in the mouth, or punished, who do not understand why what they’re doing is dangerous or harmful, and who are later validated by nonsense like Metz’s post.
The sentiment is that there’s no level of bullying that can’t be overcome by just walking away and toughing it out.
Does Stephanie Metz naively believe those kids could have just toughed it out? That someone merely called them names?
Here’s the kicker: Neither kind of bully gets a gun and shoots up his school. (Let’s not pretend this is a “her” issue. We take the feelings and emotions of girls seriously and when girls do feel alone or helpless they tend to kill themselves, rather than others.)
School shootings and why they happen are their own special blend of tragedy; tragedies that are most likely fostered by the sort of nonsense that Metz spouts. According to those who think like her, mental illness is something that boys just have to tough out.
"If we’d just stop coddling our kids, the problems would go away." (What’s the overlap between this crowd and the "a gun in every hand" crowd?)
Except the problems won’t go away, and high-fiving “head in the sand” bullshit like this post by Stephanie Metz is just going to make the problem worse.
Sadly, it seems, the only way she’ll ever realize that is if one of her own kids someday walks off a building. That’s the sort of reality that is hard to deny.
In every gangster movie ever the city is overrun with crime because the city is overrun with gangsters. Said gangsters then approach the little guy (who just wants to run his humble corner store) to ask for “protection money” against the violence that the little guy wouldn’t need protecting from if the gangsters weren’t there at all.
It’s a great business plan, if you can get away with it — and if you have no morals.
And yet it pretty much sums up Amazon’s new Amazon Source service:
We designed this program with bookstores in mind. The Bookseller Program offers a discount on the price of Kindle tablets and e-readers, plus the opportunity to make a commission on every book your customers purchase from their device, anywhere, anytime. With the Bookseller Program, you get a 10% commission every time one of your customers buys an e-book from a Kindle tablet or e-reader that they purchase at your store. This program allows you to give your customers a choice between digital and physical books, offer them access to a wide selection of e-books, and profit from every e-book they buy on their new device, from your store or on the go.*
So, to recap: Traditional booksellers (large and small) are fighting for survival because ebooks, which are largely bought and consumed on devices controlled by Amazon, are the future.
Amazon saunters in, tells traditional booksellers that the solution is to pay Amazon for Kindle hardware (at a minor discount) and then the bookseller will get a (minor) cut of the price of every book purchased on that Kindle for two years.
Amazon has actually improved on the protection money racket by getting the little guy to pay for the guns!
As usual, this is Amazon trying to look like a saint while behaving like a sinner, though I’m sure they’ll get a pass yet again, because Amazon is pretty great at what they do.
Still, there are some obvious red flags when it comes to Amazon’s generosity:
- As I have already mentioned, more than anything else, this is Amazon trying to sell more Kindles. Selling more Kindles benefits no one except Amazon given that booksellers can’t re-sell Kindles for a meaningful profit because Amazon already sells them at close to cost. (Remember that Target eventually refused to sell Kindles, in part because of Amazon’s aggressive pricing strategy.)
- Basically, booksellers will make 6% (the 6% they saved on the purchase) for every Kindle they sell, unless they sell Kindles for more than Amazon sells them for, which would mean they’d never sell a Kindle. Gah! Best case, that’s around $6 to $20 multiplied by however many Kindles they sell. Small stores aren’t going to sell hundreds of Kindles, let alone thousands. Tens? Maybe. But just maybe.
- "Anytown Books" isn’t going to benefit from the 10% cut on ebook purchases because 1) the deal only lasts for two years and 2) most small booksellers won’t be able to buy (and then sell) enough Kindles to make any real money as a — let’s face it — glorified Amazon Associate. The volume potential simply isn’t there. Also, the above asterisk means terms and conditions apply. Who wants to bet that those terms and conditions don’t work in favor of booksellers?
- This 10% cut is made even worse by the fact that Amazon loves to tout the fact that it sells ebooks for as little as possible. You may have heard about this in a little story called “Apple was successfully sued by the Government for trying to sell ebooks at a price that was attractive to the people who own the rights to said ebooks.”
- Every Kindle a bookseller does sell increases the odds that those customers never walk through the door again and never buy a “real” book again. Those “never agains” negate margins that actually make the bookseller money. In essence, the more Kindles they sell, the worse off they are. Thanks, Amazon!
In short, this is yet another Amazon attempt to convert bookseller customers to Amazon customers under the guise of supporting booksellers.
More likely, Amazon Source — if adopted — will simply accelerate their demise.
Perhaps the question was rhetorical, but an article about social media managers at large companies (and why they suck) is picking up steam on the interwebosphere, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to provide an answer and, perhaps, the solution.
WHY ARE SO MANY SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGERS DIPSHITS?
The first reason is that most of these people are simply living up to the value they are assigned at the company they work for. My guess is that (in many cases) they’re low-level nobodies assigned to the task of writing some tweets, perhaps because they have a Twitter account and have demonstrated an ability to tweet.
Large or small, most companies create a “social media manager” position because they think they have to, not because they understand the point or value of having one. As an extension of that ignorance they accept click/like/retweet-baiting as a substitute for quality engagement.
That initial lack of vision transfers over to assigning no value to the person tasked with the job, which means they get paid shit because the job they’ve been given isn’t worth paying much for. In turn, that person could give a fuck about doing anything more than an adequate job.
Assuming a company does go through the trouble of interviewing and hiring someone to fill this role, they fall back on the “pretty person” syndrome and seek out a hipster or a hot girl or Alicia Keys or Ashton Kutcher and bank on the idea that cool bleeds.
The trouble is, you can’t really pay someone to like your product, let alone love it, and bullshit stinks whether it’s attached to Alicia Keys or a nobody.
So, to sum up:
- Companies don’t care about or don’t understand the value of social media which means;
- they under-pay and/or under-hire for the position which results in;
- a social media manager who doesn’t give a fuck, and it shows.
This is actually way easier to explain:
- Make the position a priority and pay for it like you mean it.
- Hire someone who can actually write, not someone who merely tweets.
- Hire someone who actually loves (and uses) your product.
- If you can’t find someone who actually loves and uses your product 1) reflect on why that is but 2) at the very least hire someone who loves to write and is enthusiastic and creative when you talk to them about your product.
- The best way to find someone who qualifies for 2-4 is to go out and do something fun with the person you’re thinking about hiring. Dinner, drinks, whatever. If that person can’t shut up about your product and has ideas about how he/she would promote it, hire that person.
- Ultimately, you want everything you learn about this person to shine through in the way they engage customers (and potential customers) through social media channels.
- This doesn’t mean hiring a salesperson, it means hiring an advocate: Much like the Great Pumpkin, you’re looking for sincerity.
Late last week, Google unveiled Chromecast, attempt number three in their quest to conquer the living room after the wide-right foul ball that was GoogleTV and the wild swing-and-a-miss-and-thrown-bat that was the ill-fated Nexus Q. At just $35, Chromecast is certainly priced compellingly and it’s hard to find fault with its barely-there footprint. So, is this the winner that Google has been looking for?
I’m not so sure.
The Competitive Landscape
Realistically speaking, Chromecast is competing with Apple TV and Roku for space in your living room. Handily, Dan Rayburn of Frost and Sullivan recently published some statistics surrounding the streaming market, which provide a great metric for comparison:
Our report details sales numbers showing that Apple owned 56% of the streaming devices market in 2012, with Roku coming in second at 21% of the market.
Tivo is next with just 6.5% of the market and then “others” — comprised of a rag-tag assortment of several devices you’ve never heard of — split the remaining 15.9 percent.
Rayburn also fortuitously noted that “Google is conspicuous by its absence in this segment.”
That brings us to last week’s announcement.
Google needs to grab a sizable portion of the market in order to overtake either Apple or Roku in the streaming market and with Chromecast, it appears that they’re touting three key selling points in an effort to get there:
Anyone who has a laptop or a desktop (Mac, PC, or Chromebook) can Chromecast. Anyone with an Android device can Chromecast. Google promises that at some point in the near future, anyone with an iOS device will be able to Chromecast.
At first blush, this is indeed a compelling argument against an investment in Apple TV because Apple infamously curates a walled garden: If you want to stream from a smartphone, tablet, or computer to an Apple TV, you’re going to have to own a smartphone, tablet, or computer with an Apple logo on it.
Dig a little deeper, though, and the advantages aren’t quite so clear cut: Chromecast offers a wider swath of device compatibility, yes, but without one of those compatible devices, your $35 buys little more than a dust cover for a spare HDMI port. This means that Blackberry customers need not apply. Windows Phone? Nope. I’m not even sure if the Kindle Fire gets to play ball, given the forked-up state of Android on Amazon’s platform.
What about one-device households in which that one device isn’t always in the house?
An Apple TV works as a stand-alone device: Plug it in, run an HDMI cable to your TV, and everything you need to stream Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, amongst others — not to mention the ability to rent or buy TV shows and movies — is right there on the device. If you have a high-speed internet connection, you can use the hell out of an Apple TV right out of the box. As a bonus, if you happen to have an iPhone or an iPad, an Apple TV provides far more streaming utility than Chromecast, even from an Android device.
There’s no two ways around it: $35 is an intriguing price for almost anything that requires a power plug, let alone a somewhat functional media streamer, and there’s no doubt that one “streaming device” at $99 is a tough sell against another “streaming device” at $35.
All that is to say: The Chromecast is priced to sell if you’re a not particularly observant comparison shopper who thinks all “streaming devices” are alike. Having read some of the early reviews, though, it seems to me that Chromecast is $35 because it provides at least $64 less value than an Apple TV.
It’s got Netflix, true, but what doesn’t these days?
There are no less than four devices currently plugged into my TV that offer access to Netflix, and a couple of them also stream YouTube videos. Netflix-capable devices are the new paper clip: You’ve probably got a couple of them laying around.
Ultimately, there’s little if anything a Chromecast can do that an Apple TV cannot do, and a lot of empty space and negotiating for content that Google still needs to do to in order to increase the value gap beyond a knee-jerk impulse buy for geeks.
Yes, $35 is a great price for a gadget if that gadget provides substantially more than $35 worth of value — but I’m not sure Chromecast gets there.
Ease of Use
Chromecast is quite a bit smaller than an already pretty small Apple TV, yes, but is it easier to use or set up? My post-announcement impression was that the Chromecast dongle was a self-powered device. This can be true, except when it’s not: Some newer televisions have HDMI ports that will provide power, but not all. (And not mine.) Some newer televisions have USB ports that will provide power via the included cable, but not all. (And not mine.) For everyone else, you’re left with pluggingin via a standard wall socket. Not a deal breaker, but not exactly the plug-and-play experience that Google touted, either.
The fact is, some of the neatest features of the $35 Chromecast call for the most current television models. For everyone else there’s the small print.
And, of course, after you’ve got the device plugged-in and powered-up, you’re directed to visit a website — necessitating the use of a companion device — just so that you can connect Chromecast to a WiFi network. Even if you assume that all of this is indeed super easy, there’s nothing about the process that is any easier than setting up an Apple TV which, again, is not a deal breaker but is contrary to Google’s hyperbole.
Perhaps Google will put out an infomercial-style pitch in which a clueless and unsuspecting Apple TV owner looks helplessly at an HDMI cable or struggles mightily with Apple’s remote while engaged in a constant struggle to reach the on-screen settings menu. But wait! Struggle no more as you effortlessly insert the pocket-sized Chromecast dongle and your TV auto-switches input and streams all your content like magic! Order in the next hour and you’ll get three months of Netflix — a $24 value — FREE! (PROBABLY!)
So, What Then?
Not long after it was announced, Gizmodo’s Brian Barrett announced that “you’d be crazy not to buy Google Chromecast.” Then, after the free-Netflix deal went extinct (which, let’s be honest, wasn’t all that long after Google announced Chromecast), Gizmodo updated that headline with the caveat of a “super sad update” and an excitement downgrade from “no-brainer” to “pretty good deal.”
So, who’s it for, then? If you own an iOS device, I’d say you’d be crazy to buy a $35 Chromecast instead of a $99 Apple TV.
If you own an Android device I’d say you have a compelling reason to read the reviews and find out if the value is there for what you’d use it for. Given Google’s history with television and content deals, though, I’d strongly encourage a few months of patience.
Here are some choice cuts:
Even within the apps that have already been tweaked for Chromecast compatibility, there are some day one bugs. Sometimes videos don’t play the first time you ask them to, instead dropping you into a never-ending loading screen. Other times, the video’s audio will start playing on top of a black screen. These bugs aren’t painfully common, but they’re not rare, either. - TechCrunch
There were some glitches with the other two apps as well. Google Play Movies froze while loading up one video, but we were able to remedy the issue by closing the app and trying again. The Netflix app also quit registering touch input during playback on several occasions when we allowed our device to enter standby mode. - Engadget
I tested free Hulu content, HBO Go, NBC, CBS, and Fox, all of which worked. The bad news is that limitations are obvious right away. Image quality ranges from mediocre to poor, mostly because Chrome is converting the video on the fly from your PC and sending it to the Chromecast. You’re also going to run into occasional (and sometimes frequent) dropouts — sometimes just audio, but sometimes the video pauses, too. And the feature itself isn’t entirely stable, so expect the extension to crash sometimes with Google throwing a quirky “brain freeze” message up on your TV. - CNET
Google gobbled-up a majority of the smartphone market because their partners — Samsung, primarily — blanketed the low-end with cheap, underpowered devices that millions of people use like feature phones.
They seem to be making a similar, albeit in-house, grab for the streaming-media market with Chromecast, but questions remain: Is the low-end juggernaut of the sizeable Android market looking to buy a media-streaming device (at any price) and — if not — is the high-end of the Android market formidable enough to overtake Apple for that top spot, or even move past Roku to emerge as a strong number two?
Perhaps, but that won’t make this first generation Chromecast any better as an investment.
Here’s Pete Williams one year ago almost to the day, after the Supreme Court heard arguments on Obamacare:
“I think it’s very doubtful that court is going to find the health care law constitutional,” NBC’s Pete Williams reported after watching the two hours of oral argument before the high court. “I don’t see five votes to find the law constitutional.”
Here’s Pete Williams today, after the Supreme Court heard arguments on Proposition 8:
After the oral argument, Pete Williams of NBC News reported that it seemed “quite obvious” that the court is not prepared to issue a sweeping ruling declaring that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
Pete Williams, meet grain of salt.Pete Williams on Twitter.
Here’s how to do it:
Get in and then get the fuck out.
Hire great writers and great show runners and give them two seasons. Or three. Tell them they’ve got exactly that amount of time to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Here’s the important part:
Don’t be a dick and tell them they’re out of time at any point before the end and don’t be tempted to let popularity extend a show beyond the end.
Get in, get the fuck out.
Do this, and you’ll have two things:
- A constant supply of fresh content.
- Customer loyalty.
Number one is obvious. A clean exit strategy leads to more new content. Everything that inevitably goes bad about some of the best programming can be traced back to a lack of an exit strategy. Don’t fall into this trap.
It happened to Lost. It’s happened to virtually every sitcom that has ever aired on network television. Do not let it happen to your content.
Get in, get the fuck out.
Number two should be obvious but apparently isn’t. People aren’t giving new content a chance because at times it seems we’re more invested than the networks are. I’m tired of starting (and sometimes loving) content that won’t last beyond a few episodes, let alone an entire season. Don’t waste our time.
Commit and viewers will flock to your content.
Get in, get the fuck out.
This is your new mantra if you want to out-HBO HBO.
It’s a sentiment so lazy and so without thought (and so common) that it’s probably best ignored but, well, low hanging fruit and all that:
- At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era did Apple enjoy such a wide base of popularity?
- At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era did Apple have as large a share of the market as they currently have in the mobile era?
- At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era did Apple have a minority share of the market but rake in the vast majority of the industry profits?
- At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era did Apple have over a hundred billion dollars cash on hand?
- At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era was Apple dominating its competitors on a device for device basis? (In other words, when was any one product in Apple’s Mac lineup consistently outselling every competing PC on the market?)
- At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era was Apple so successfully entrenched in multiple product categories?
"Mac vs PC" as an argument against Apple in 2013 is intellectually lazy. To make it, you either have to be a troll, an idiot, or both.
A few days ago, information activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide.
Way back in 2011, Aaron Swartz was indicted on charges of data theft, and was facing up to 35 years in prison and one million dollars in fines.
You probably read about that on similar sites — way back in 2011.
Now, Aaron Swartz is dead and tech blogs are eager to tie his suicide to an overzealous prosecution. That’s great, except…
…where were the investigations in August of that year? In September? In October? November? December? What about 2012?
That brings us to today.
Aaron Swartz’s case — assuming it was indeed shaping up to be a gross miscarriage (or misappropriation) of justice — was just as outrageous in each of those months. The story was just as compelling.
Except a story that isn’t ever written isn’t a story at all.
Gizmodo in July of 2011:
Gizmodo in August, September, October, November, and December of 2011 and all of 2012:
Gizmodo in January of 2013:
Read/Write in July of 2011:
Read/Write in August, September, October, November, and December of 2011 and all of 2012:
Read/Write in January of 2013:
ArsTechnica in July of 2011:
ArsTechnica in August, September, October, November, and December of 2011 and all of 2012:
ArsTechnica in January of 2013:
TechCrunch doesn’t seem to have a useful search feature — I couldn’t find anything from 2011 relating to Aaron Swartz and sorting “by date” inexplicably turns up no results even though sorting “by relevance” turns up plenty — but the results I get do include this insightful article…
…written in January of 2013:
What the fuck happened, here?
My main recollection of the earlier story (the way back in 2011 version) was boorish fact-checking about whether or not Swartz was “actually” a Reddit co-founder or just an early Reddit employee. Truly, hard hitting investigative journalism when you consider that over a year later, bloggers are coming out of the woodwork to describe his genius and the travesty of justice he had been facing (alone, apparently) ever since.
My takeaway is this:
The bread and butter of tech blogging (or just plain ol’ blogging blogging) is reactive journalism, and very rarely (too rarely) does anyone exhibit any form of proactive journalism. That’s hard work. It’s long nights and dead ends and patience and possible failure. It’s trust and reputation, which comes from sources first and follow from readers second.
As often as not, these are values that are seen as anathema to keeping it real as a tech blogger. Too traditional.
And, anyway, who wants to face dead ends when you can just wait for dead kids?
That’s where the real page views are.