- Art (3)
- Bars (4)
- Beer (46)
- Books (2)
- Boston/Cambridge (22)
- Cartoons (65)
- Charts & Data (4)
- Current Events (129)
- Economics (17)
- Flying (1)
- Food (9)
- Garden (1)
- General (84)
- Greater Boston (2)
- History (14)
- Homebrew Crash Course (1)
- Homebrew Recipe (2)
- Homebrew Review (3)
- India Food Waste (1)
- Lightroom 4 Presets (8)
- Links (25)
- Lists (2)
- Magic (3)
- Markets (20)
- Movies (4)
- Music (76)
- Nature (1)
- Photography (85)
- Politics (4)
- Radio (1)
- Recipes (1)
- Research (12)
- Science (8)
- Sports (1)
- Technology (42)
- Television (5)
- Travel (90)
- Uncategorized (15)
- May 2013 (1)
- April 2013 (5)
- March 2013 (6)
- February 2013 (4)
- January 2013 (5)
- December 2012 (21)
- November 2012 (18)
- October 2012 (5)
- September 2012 (1)
- August 2012 (9)
- July 2012 (20)
- June 2012 (7)
- May 2012 (9)
- April 2012 (15)
- March 2012 (16)
- February 2012 (19)
- January 2012 (25)
- December 2011 (32)
- November 2011 (29)
- October 2011 (16)
- September 2011 (21)
- August 2011 (24)
- July 2011 (46)
- June 2011 (35)
- May 2011 (40)
- April 2011 (36)
- March 2011 (41)
- February 2011 (46)
- January 2011 (59)
- December 2010 (7)
Like many people, I love Sriracha. This story makes me love it even more. Via TechCrunch:
The company name sounded Chinese – Huy Fong Foods. Was this the latest Chinese product to take off in the US?
Turns out it is a family-owned business started by a refugee from Vietnam (of Vietnamese and Chinese roots) and named after a small village in Thailand Si Racha. So grateful was David Tran for the people who provided safe passage from Vietnam for him that he named his company after the Taiwanese ship that carried him away.
Tran moved to Los Angeles and started his business in Chinatown with a need he personally had. He noticed that Americans didn’t have good hot sauce. So he made hand-made batches in a bucket and drove it to customers in his van.
But his goal wasn’t to make a billion dollars. He wasn’t driven by quick riches. He was driven by wanting to provide a great product. How much could the new generation of entrepreneurs learn from that?
I know it’s what I look for when I want to back companies.
“My American dream was never to become a billionaire,” Tran said. “We started this because we like fresh, spicy chili sauce.”
And build a great business he did. While still owning the business he now does $60 million in annual sales built from nothing.
Could he have grown faster with outside money? Or by selling to a big company and taking it international? Sure.
But it wasn’t his ambition.
You’ll absolutely love this quote:
“This company, she is like a loved one to me, like family. Why would I share my loved one with someone else?”
How many of you could say that?
He didn’t want to compromise on product, as he knew he would be forced to if he had to expand too quickly. He wanted to keep his prices low (apparently he has never raised his wholesale price in 30 years).
What I learned from the article? What touched me? What lessons could you learn from a Vietnam refugee who makes chili sauce? Quite a bit it turns out …
1. Extreme product passion. When his packaging suppliers tried to get him to change his product to make it less hot or more sweet for American customers he refused: “Hot sauce must be hot. If you don’t like it hot, use less,” he said. “We don’t make mayonnaise here.”
2. Uncompromising product quality (he processes his chilies the same day they are harvested)
3. He had a guiding principle for the company
4. Focus on the customer and provide value - ”We just do our own thing and try to keep the price low. If our product is still welcomed by the customer, then we will keep growing.” He said this in response to the fact that several other companies are now stealing the Sriracha brand name. He can’t trademark it since it’s the name of a city. By the way, he has never spent a dollar on advertising
5. Provide something distinctive. What will you be known for? Given the brand dilution going on with the name Sriracha how can he still grow his business? The distinctive design of his packaging. That crazy rooster. All those freaking languages on the bottle – the mystery of it all! And the green caps.
Here’s my eighth free Lightroom 4 preset, China Red. It isolates red in a photo while increasing the contrast to create a somewhat dramatic and focused effect. I’ve actually decided to post two versions — the first isolates red while allowing some orange tones to come through, while the second is identical except that it exclusively isolates red. In situations where there are people in a photo or when you might want to preserve the color in wood, the first is preferable. The second is great when you essentially want a black and white photo with just the red coming through.
I originally developed the set after a trip to China with MIT in 2011, and have since used it in many situations. It’s the type of preset that I use sparingly, but when the right opportunity comes up, it’s immediately obvious.
Here’s the download: Lightroom 4 Preset: China Red
To install it in Lightroom, simply right click any preset, select import, and then select the downloaded preset file.
I’ve been learning a bit about data visualization tools lately, and last night I decided to go digging through Massachusetts government websites to see if there was any interesting data I could plot. I didn’t expect to spend my night learning about the history of rainfall in the state, but the Massachusetts precipitation database turned about to be a great resource. Below is what I came up with in half an hour or so.
On the map, each color represents a water basin — essentially where the water for the town or city comes from. The size of the circle represents the total rainfall in the area in a given year. You can toggle between years on the right. In any given year, I charted the monthly rainfall by region below the map. And finally, at the very bottom is a chart of overall annual rainfall in the state by year from 1902-2011. Click any year on the bottom chart, and the top two will update as well. To clear that selection, click anywhere else in the chart. For any meteorologists visiting my site for the first time, welcome! And anyone who knows of other public datasets that would lend themselves nicely to visualizations, feel free to leave a note in the comments.
Google’s new trust issue mentioned in my last Google Reader post – mainly that Google might find it more difficult to convince people to invest time to try their new products if they keep retiring apps that aren’t popular with mainstream users – seems to be getting some prominent attention.
Slate’s new Google graveyard:
Here’s the problem: Google now has a clear enough track record of trying out, and then canceling, “interesting” new software that I have no idea how long Keep will be around. When Google launched its Google Health service five years ago, it had an allure like Keep’s: here was the one place you could store your prescription info, test results, immunization records, and so on and know that you could get at them as time went on. That’s how I used it — until Google cancelled this “experiment” last year. Same with Google Reader, and all the other products in the Google Graveyard that Slate produced last week.
I don’t understand how Google can get anyone to rely on its experimental products unless it has a convincing answer for the “how do we know you won’t kill this?” question.
Ezra Klein worries about Gmail:
But I’m not sure I want to be a Google early adopter anymore. I love Google Reader. And I used to use Picnik all the time. I’m tired of losing my services.
In fact, I’m starting to worry a bit about Gmail, which is at the core of pretty much my entire life. I know, I know — Gmail is safe. The data it feeds into the Google mainframe is extremely valuable to the search giant. They won’t let anything happen to it.
But I’m a heavy user of Gmail. And so I’ve been buying more space on Google’s servers. Recently, I hit 30 gigs — and learned Google won’t let me purchase any more room. The service which once swore I’d never have to delete a message now tells me my only option is to delete gigabyte after gigabyte of past e-mails.
That’s their right, of course. But it was a reminder that Google’s core business isn’t running an e-mail system or selling data storage. The thing I wanted to pay them to do wasn’t something they make much money off. So now I’m a bit nervous: I freed up a good number of gigabytes, but now I’ve run through much of the low-hanging fruit, and the bar measuring how far I am from my storage unit is beginning to tick up again.
The problem, I’m beginning to think, is simply mismatch. The core services of Google’s business are often not the Google services I rely on most. And even when their core products and my needs do meet, the business connection is indirect.
Not Your Typical Tech Guy makes a broader point:
I was not a Google Reader user myself, but I am certainly dependent on many products from Google and other tech companies, most of which I don’t pay anything for (Gmail being the most notable). A product I use quite frequently is my my Motorola Motactv GPS running watch. Unlike my old Garmin, all of the software to view the data is on their website. The problem is that after I purchased the watch, Google bought Motorola and support for the product has stopped. It’s only a matter of time I’m sure before the website goes down and my physical (and paid for product) device suddenly stops working as intended.
A second product I’ve questions is a new version of the class Simcity, put out by Electronic Arts recently which amazingly sold $1 million copies almost immediately. Only problem is that the game requires one to be connected to their servers to play (and to make a huge mess, they didn’t have enough servers at the launch of the game). EA claims it is to enhance the game by allowing users to compete against others, critics claim it is to prevent copyright infringements. Either way, is it fair that a game like Simcity can’t be played “offline”? If I pay $60 to purchase the game, how long is EA responsible for keeping the servers up and running so that I can continue to play it? A year? 2 years? 10 years?
As more and more data and services become dependent on the cloud, it will be interesting to see how problems like this get resolved. I have no doubts that in the long run consumers will be better off, but I’m sure there will be lots of bumps on the way. In the Google Reader example, the great news is that just like I wrote in my post on Apple dropping Google Maps, I’m sure there are many startups that will jump in shortly and deliver a product far better than the rather stale Google Reader product was.
In response to my last post, a couple people also mentioned that this is more about the future of RSS than about Reader itself. Fair point, but I generally disagree. Reader provides a service, and RSS is the back end infrastructure that supports it. While RSS may not be the best way to support that service going forward, that doesn’t mean the service is obsolete. At the risk of being extreme, here’s an analogy: you don’t shut down the postal service because horses are no longer the most effective means of transportation.
If Google wanted to maintain the service, they would have, regardless of the fate of RSS. I still believe Google has no obligation to maintain Reader, and that a reasonable substitute will be available soon, but I find the decision to shut it down both questionable and informative.
I was a bit distraught to learn of Google’s planned sun-setting of Google Reader this July as part of their “spring cleaning”. It’s hard to describe the unique and important role it plays in a daily routine to someone who doesn’t use it, but I’ll give it a shot.
Reader essentially allows users to subscribe to blogs, websites, columns, or really any other type of internet post using RSS feeds. I won’t get into the mechanics, but what this means is that for the 75 or so feeds I subscribe to, I have an inbox of posts that I can read or flip through at my leisure. Many people have written that Google+, Facebook, and Twitter are better suited to serve this role, but that’s just not true. They’re inherently different products.
For my subscriptions, I don’t want to miss a single post. I don’t even come close to reading everything that ends up in my Reader, in fact I probably only read 10% or so, but I do read every single title.
Some of my feeds are my favorite blogs on political and economic commentary, which is my primary source of news. I read the posts containing commentary, and they link to the articles at the NYT or Washington Post. I click the ones that I’m interested in reading. Other feeds are my favorite columnists – I don’t always know when they’re going to write a column, but when they do, it ends up in my feed and I read it there. I have some of my friends’ blogs in there as well. I want to read all of their posts, and it would be much more time consuming to check 5-10 websites a few times a day just to see if there’s something new. I also get all of my technology news, most of which is important for me to follow for work, from about 5 or so focused tech feeds. And that’s just part of it, I also subscribe to comics (xkcd), beer websites, photography websites, and a bunch of other scattered interest feeds.
My Reader “inbox” fills up with about 300-500 items a day, and if I don’t get through them, the count continues to grow. Sometimes I can get through 100 in 2-3 minutes by skimming the titles. Sometimes it’ll take 30-40 if there’s some good content I want to read. But the point is that nothing slips through. If I go away and don’t check it for a week, I come back to 3,500 items to skim. And in a normal day, I can read a few on the train on my phone, read some while I wait in line at a store, read a bunch on my computer at work or at home. I can do it on my own schedule.
With social media, you have to be constantly checking it – glued to the screen. 24 hours later on Twitter might as well be an eternity. Lots of things can slip through. And if you rely on Reader to make sure nothing you care about slips through, social media doesn’t even come close as a substitute. It took me years to build my subscription base to the point where it’s the right balance of information for me.
It’s not the only RSS aggregator out there, but I’m definitely not alone in believing that it’s the only one that really works across fixed and mobile platforms. While most of the posts I’ve read responding to Google’s announcement have shared my sentiment (somewhat ironically, I found them all in my feed), and I agree that this is likely a good opportunity for a start-up, one particular TechCrunch post titled “Good Riddance, Google Reader” rubbed me the wrong way:
Google Reader turned into a zombie a long time ago and it’s good that Google finally killed it. For years, Google Reader has been sitting on Google’s servers without any appreciable updates. Sure, it got a bit of a facelift in 2011, but it only lost functionality since Google decided to rip out its social features in an effort to drive people to Google+. Its core features hadn’t changed for years, its overall design wasn’t really up to snuff anymore and even after eight years on the market, it would still often take hours before some feeds finally updated.
I can’t help but think that a lot of the current outpouring of support for Google Reader is more about nostalgia than anything else. A couple of years ago, ‘shares’ on Google Reader were the equivalent of today’s Facebook Likes and Twitter retweets. It was the hot new way to measure how popular a story was, and a bunch of services ranked stories accordingly. Displaying the number of subscribers to your RSS feed was a point of pride for bloggers.
The post goes on to make some generally hard-to-argue-against statements that are factually correct, but simply miss the point. While it may not be a mainstream product, it’s still a very important product for what seems to be millions of monthly users. Who cares that Google hasn’t invested time or resources into improving it, or that it’s no longer a good metric for bloggers to see how popular they are? It works. It serves a specific role that very few competitors do well. The the people who use, really use it. They spend hours on it each day.
A common counter point to this is that Google is a big company that has finally grown up and needs to focus its resources on the bottom line. I agree – that’s what companies are supposed to do. But this seems short-sighted, as it violates the trust many people have put in Google. Trust that if you take a chance and invest time to build your routine around Google’s products, Google will support them. I’m not arguing that this is (or should be) the case for every Google product, but it’s become very clear over the past five days that a large portion of the journalism and blogging community rely on Reader. And many small firms rely on its infrastructure to power their products. This other TechCrunch post nails the point:
Google is experimenting with an Evernote-like service called “Keep,” which accidentally made a brief appearance today before disappearing again. If such a launch is indeed on the horizon, then the timing is downright bizarre. Google has not yet recovered from squandering its goodwill with the shutdown of Reader, whose demise has been covered not only by blogs, but also more mainstream publications like The Economist and The Financial Times. And Google is now becoming known for regular “spring cleanings,” which have led to the termination of services, programs and utilities that never caught on with large numbers of users.
Excuse me, but I just snorted coffee out of my nose while laughing.
I’m very confident that a viable alternative will emerge, probably backed by lots of venture money, between now and July. And I’d gladly pay a few bucks a month for something equivalent or better, if it comes to that. And I understand that Reader just isn’t part of Google’s grand plan for what the internet should look like, and how people should interact with it. But it seems to me that Google just squandered goodwill that likely exceeds the cost to maintain Reader.