My daily readings 04/16/2011

    • By the latter part of the 2000’s, I think the valley had decided that MBAs were useless and to be avoided. Google inspired folks to hire no “business guys” until after employee 50, and MBAs were out of touch guys who wanted to tell other people what to do and do nothing themselves. An MBA was a definite handicap.
    • I think the Top MBA programs do a good job of attracting super talented, smart, motivated business people. The raw materials are excellent.
    • To me, the key problem is new MBAs. When I was at Stanford they spent two years teaching me to think like a CEO. “How would Jack Welch handle this situation at GE? What would you do if you were Jack?” It was an interesting (albiet often useless) intellectual exercise. When I left, I could no longer cut it as an employee: “What, you want me to do actual work? Why aren’t you asking me to figure out our overall strategy?” They turned me from an excellent employee into a poor employee. And generally I think hiring new MBAs as employees is a bad idea, as their expectations aren’t calibrated to reality. They want responsibility they don’t deserve, they are too coin-operated, they lack managerial skills and hiring insight that still needs to be developed.
    • I don’t have an MBA (I have an MS in Computer Science), so I can’t speak from direct experience. As CEO, I’ve managed dozens of MBAs in my career, so this answer is based on that experience. An MBA provides a fair amount of knowledge about historical business case studies, finance, and other topics — all of which can be useful. It is in no way a substitute for real management experience and that’s where it can be harmful — when the holder of the MBA thinks they know how to manage, because they have an MBA. If you think of management as a systems problem where your task is to design and maintain a system where it’s a) easy to get meaningful work done and b) is fun to work in and c) you will be recognized for your good work, then the relevant experiences for management are to a) work in a company and find out why it’s hard to get things done or b) run a company and carefully observe how you are screwing it up. If you think that you know what you are doing without these experiences, you are likely delusional and would have been better off just drinking beer rather than getting an MBA and drinking beer.
    • Separate the individual from the degree. I think all the previous answers are missing this distinction.
    • Branding differences, subtle textual cues, and behavioral traits of the user, which are hard for humans to intuit but easy for machines to identify, become much more important. Moreover, different advertisers have different budgets and different bids, making ad ranking more of a revenue optimization problem than merely a quality optimization problem. Because humans are less able to understand the decision behind an ads ranking decision that may work well empirically, explainability and control — both of which are important for search ranking — become comparatively less useful in ads ranking, and machine learning becomes a much more viable option.
    • Sometimes the objective is simply to turn people on. Zynga, the maker of popular Facebook games such as CityVille and FarmVille, collects 60 billion data points per day—how long people play games, when they play them, what they’re buying, and so forth. The Wants (Zynga’s term is “data ninjas”) troll this information to figure out which people like to visit their friends’ farms and cities, the most popular items people buy, and how often people send notes to their friends. Discovery: People enjoy the games more if they receive gifts from their friends, such as the virtual wood and nails needed to build a digital barn. As for the poor folks without many friends who aren’t having as much fun, the Wants came up with a solution. “We made it easier for those players to find the parts elsewhere in the game, so they relied less on receiving the items as gifts,” says Ken Rudin, Zynga’s vice-president for analytics.
    • No one is suggesting that the top tier of ad-centric companies—Facebook, Google—is going down should the bubble pop. As for the next tier or two down, where a profusion of startups is piling into every possible niche involving social networking and ads—the fate of those companies is anybody’s guess. Among the many unveilings in March, one stood out: An app called Color, made by a seven-month-old startup of the same name. Color lets people take and store their pictures. More than that, it uses geolocation and ambient-noise-matching technology to figure out where a person is and then automatically shares his photos with other nearby people and vice versa. People at a concert, for example, could see photos taken by all the other people at that concert. The same goes for birthday parties, sporting events, or a night out at a bar. The app also shares photos among your friends in the Color social network, so you can see how Jane is spending her vacation or what John ate for breakfast, if he bothered to take a photo of it.
    • So if this tech bubble is about getting shoppers to buy, what’s left if and when it pops? Perlman grows agitated when asked that question. Hands waving and voice rising, he says that venture capitalists have become consumed with finding overnight sensations. They’ve pulled away from funding risky projects that create more of those general-purpose technologies—inventions that lay the foundation for more invention. “Facebook is not the kind of technology that will stop us from having dropped cell phone calls, and neither is Groupon or any of these advertising things,” he says. “We need them. O.K., great. But they are building on top of old technology, and at some point you exhaust the fuel of the underpinnings.”

      And if that fuel of innovation is exhausted? “My fear is that Silicon Valley has become more like Hollywood,” says Glenn Kelman, chief executive officer of online real estate brokerage Redfin, who has been a software executive for 20 years. “An entertainment-oriented, hit-driven business that doesn’t fundamentally increase American competitiveness.”

    •  盛大旗下的游玩网原本也不是为LBS而生。它最初的定位是做一个旅游社区网站云游天地,去年上半年还通过百万年薪海选CTO(首席旅游官)造势等方式在网上赚足眼球,连CEO宋铮早前在天涯社区任职执行主编的履历也与之契合。

        但到了去年年中的时候,初步上路的游玩网决定转变定位。这时,他们已默默观察Foursquare乃至新生的街旁网数月之久。去年8月,游玩网以LBS的形态上线,而不是旅游社区。去年底,它索性改名为更直观的“切客网”。

    •  这样的局面很容易让人联想起过去不断发生的事实——创业者们完成了用户教育,成果却被后来居上的大佬们收割。

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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