Introducing People To Dallas through a Taco Tour

 

The way I like to introduce people to Dallas is by neighborhoods, and the parts of town with their distinct identities. Dallas was built in the era of cars, and didn’t build up wholistic neighborhoods like Chicago or New York. Therefore we have less zones than older cities, and it’s relatively easy to share them with people.

Below is Chris Vogel’s wonderful visual interpretation of Dallas’s neighborhoods.

Chris Vogel’s map. https://twitter.com/imchrisvogel

It’s easy to fall into going to just restaurants and bars, but those don’t vary as much from city to city as you might think.

This guide is from my perspective, and the parts of Dallas that I think are interesting, and want to show.

The Taco Tour

A Taco Tour is a tour or Dallas where you pile in a car, or all ride your bikes from one Taco place to another, getting one taco per person at each place. There are so many great places to get tacos in Dallas that the tour can be all over the place. Generally, these recommendations will be Mexican street-taco style. The tacos will be served on small corn tortillas, and generally be around $1-1.50 each. Most people will be happy eating 3-5 of them over the course of 2-3 hours.

If you’re dedicating an evening to it, here are some of the ways you can go.

  1. Start at Park and Greenville and work south. El Centro Super Market is a good place to start because it feels foreign, while being right in the middle of things. There is a Taqueria inside the grocery store, just like in most Mexican grocery stores. There’s a money transfer station and a boost mobile store inside. You have to walk past a fantastic elote stand most of the time. The selection of the grocery section is unlike anglo grocery stores, especially the meat sections.
  2. Drive past the Taco Cabana. Notable: They make tortillas in each one. This location is 24 hours, and they have a bar for sides, so if you want a pile of cilantro and onions on each taco, you can.
  3. El Rincon Villa / El Taco right around the corner just south of Park on Greenville is a decent taqueria. They usually have 2-3 interesting electronic items for sale at prices lower than Costco. They also have great music playing in Spanish driven by a phone that you could play with while waiting in line, but you’re more respectful than that. They have a great pineapple taco.
  4. Point out La Michoacana just north of Blackwell as you continue south on Greenville. You could stop there, but it’s going to be a lot like El Centro Super Market. This is the most southern hispanic business that I know of in the Park/Greenville area. That area I find defined by Park between Greenville and Abrams.
  5. You could detour back to Shady Brook Ln, and go through the Village Apartments, which is a huge apartment complex with its own country club. That one apartment complex on about 300 acres houses 10,000 residences, and is a pretty great place to live in your 20’s. The Village drives Old Town, which is the Greenville shopping district between Caruth Haven and Lovers Lane. This is the headwater section of Dallas’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is one of the biggest events in Dallas, and one of the biggest St. Patrick parties in the nation. 125,000+ people come to the parade, and many stick around on Lower Greenville to drink all day long, much to the chagrin of the neighborhood that donates their yards to the cans/urine that come with that party.
  6. This is a great opportunity to stop into Central Market at Lovers and Greenville. You should be 1-2 tacos in. This will be a 30-45 minute detour. This will impress and amaze most out of town guests. If the most expensive block of cheese you’ve ever seen is less than $10 and the only place to buy “decent” wine is Walmart, it’s quite a thing to see a $600 block of cheese, or a $800 bottle of wine.
  7. Continue south on Greenville and stop in at Rusty Taco at University. This is the most Austin-style taco place I’ve seen in Dallas. The tacos are good, and split the price gap between the taquerias, and gringo-taco places like Velvet Taco ($3-4 each). This is the eastern border of the SMU area, which is just across Central. If you want fish or shrimp tacos, this is the one stop on this list to get seafood.
  8. Continue south on Greenville. After you cross Mockingbird, this is what is known as Lower Greenville. This is the western-most part of East Dallas. Drive past Granada Theater. This is one of the best places in Dallas to see touring acts. It was a movie theater until about 2001. Pass St. Martin’s Neighborhood Bistro, which is one of my favorite anniversary-grade restuarants in town. Belmont is the northern border of Lowest Greenville. Turn left on Richmond, and the park on the street right in front of Chichen Itza. This is my favorite taqueria in Dallas. The tacos are among the best, generally finishing second in the aggregated voting. They also have good coffees. Their biggest business is their bakery, which supplies goods to many local restaurants. Their speciality is a milenesa taco, which is a breaded and fried pork taco. World of Beer is right around the corner, and a decent place to stop and switch to drinking, as there are a number of great bars walkable around, including The Libertine, Blind Butcher, The Truckyard. From El Centro Supermarket to Chichen Itza is 4.1 miles.
  9. If you have continued, take a right on Ross. The first place on the right after the CVS is Tacos Y Mas, the best fast-food-style street tacos in I’ve had.

In a Forest Dark and Deep, Second Thought Theatre Response: Identies of Women in the Context of Blurred Lines, and Society’s Judgement

So about three months ago, I finally realized that my time on earth is dwindling and will end. That’s been kind of all consuming, but I think I’m moving past it, into things like this. Since my posts here are so infrequent, I’m going to include lots of time-sensitive information that will help me understand this point in time when I read it later.

The incomparable John Gorman let me and Daniel Miller know about the Robin #THICKE “no-clothes” version of Blurred Lines on a bike ride last month. This was during a two and a half week cycling vacation that I took before and after work and on the weekends while the rest of my family was summering on Lake Erie.

After the bike ride, I watched the video on my new Chromecast. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s basically three guys singing their side of a “have sex with me” come on lines while looking suave. Gorgeous women wearing only thongs disinterestedly prance-stomp around the set while assuming the attitudes of disinterested house casts who have just been fed and groomed.

I found the Blurred Lines video thought provoking. The fact that the women were naked*, but not being sexual was interesting, and I think healthy. There has been much written about this video, and its connotations. In my opinion, the video is a statement that women, regardless of their undress, can be oogled and pursued as sex objects without engaging in their standard role as sex objects. Women can carry on with their lives and be themselves without being defined by the interest in their sexuality. The fact that they’re naked does not not change their behavior or self identity.

There has been much written and commented about the video, much of it highly negative of the women being objectified and the song’s intent as lyrically encouraging rape. The commentators who are complaining about it provoking rape culture seem to be misplaced to me. It seems to be a song where a guy is trying to get a girl to leave the guy she’s with to go have sex with him. He’s giving her the opportunity to say yes. That’s not rape. But he’s expressing his sexual interest in her. We have no idea what her response is. So, although it’s not chivalrous, and would likely cause a quarrel between  him and her current lover, I think it’s incorrect to attribute it to promoting rape culture.

In my opinion, presuming the helplessness of women is a demeaning assumption introduced by the commentators. So it’s the commentators and not the lyrics or video that are demeaning to women.

 

That said, I’ve enjoyed the discussions that Blurred Lines has brought into society about sexuality. I think it’s healthy for society to discuss things like this.

In a Forest Dark and Deep, and it’s relationship to sexual identities of women

Last night was the last performance of this season at Second Thought Theater, where I’m a board member. The play was In a Forest, Dark and Deep by Neil LaBute, directed by Reagan Adair, with set design by Drew Wall, and acted by Heather Henry as Betty and Jeremy Schwartz as Bobby. It was in the top tier of theater productions I’ve ever seen. There are about five that I’ve seen in that tier of overall experience, most recently Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph, also in the 2013 season of Second Thought.

What I took of the story of In a Forest, Dark and Deep is that it’s an examination of a woman who has defined herself through her sexual exploits throughout her life. Men being sexually interested in Betty is empowering to her. Betty ignores the effects of her reputation, marriage, stability, work fulfillment or general human trust on how she defines her identity. Instead she focuses on episodic trysts that help her feel empowered and in charge of her life, regardless of what her family or other lovers (including her husband) think of her actions. It’s as though new sex partners is her confirmation that, as Dorothy Gish would say, “she’s still ‘got it'”.

Betty, at the age of 45 (per the script), is still self-defined by her ability to sexually attract and fulfill lovers. The world also defines her this way, but she doesn’t care about that. What happens when a much younger lover becomes the less interested partner and the more sexually interesting of the coupling? It crushes her.

LaBute makes a fascinating point about how women, even those who are accomplished as university deans with marriages and children, can be caught up judging themselves primarily as sex objects against college students and women who are at the pinnacle of their pure sexual attractiveness. She cedes her best attributes to focus on one that is diminishing.

Betty could assume her rightful place as a role model to young men and women. Instead, she insists on competing in the same sexualized playing field as they are, when there is a much more important one that she could participate in, where she is at a much stronger advantage.

Is real life so scary that Betty can’t address it? Are trysts her coping mechanism that help her keep from grading herself by mature and responsible terms?

It’s easier for Betty to validate herself in ways that she knows than to re-define her grading scale and place importance on her influence on the future of society.

The Conclusion: Sexual Power is Fleeting

So, if you want to have actual clout, then do important work, and make appropriate money for that work, then focus your energy on being healthy and doing that good work. Take care of yourself by finding pursuits that are meaningful to your own definitions. Don’t distract everyone (mainly yourself) with the fragrance of your sexual readiness. If you over-invest in your expressions of fertility, your forties and beyond are going to be terrible and the people who invested in self improvement, careers and families will not empathize with you at all. They’ll wonder why you’re so grumpy and pathetic, which will mean that your only outlet for happiness will be television that shows how dumb young people are.

My paternal grandmother apparently hugely invested her identity in her appearance. I’m grateful for my dad discovering this and letting me know the context of her grumpiness toward the world. When she was young, she was the attractive one among her sisters. There was a car crash at some point, and she become the one who was once attractive. She lost her identity in her twenties rather than forties, and apparently carried a strong resentment toward everyone for the rest of her life.

She had friends, three generations of family she lived within two miles of, a business in her home, yet was defined by an anger borne out of her loss of sexual attractiveness. She could have re-framed her existence, and didn’t.

My maternal grandmother seemed to be completely unaffected by vanity, and was a delightful woman who relished her family and grandchildren. She was a joy to many, and honored others. She loved to teach and listen and participate. She went down large slides, played golf, and frisbee with us when she was in her 80’s. She loved Jesus and others and never showed any scars of life that I could see. I doubt she ever read Cosmopolitan, and was likely far better for it.

I know that her grandchildren and children are far better off having a strong female role model who rooted her identity in family, religion, work, hobbies, charity and happiness.

A key difference between my grandmothers is how much of their lives they invested in watching television. It’s hard to look at how they lived their lives without coming to the conclusion that television was a source of tremendous sadness and frustration.

I love that there are plays out there that are so thought provoking, and that I have friends to engage in meaningful discussions with.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to serve at Second Thought Theatre that brings art, cautionary tales, and comments on society in such unflinching ways. I hope that you all will chose to share in the 2014 season that starts in January.

Epilogue

Thoughts like these come out of conversations with my wife and friends, and I am so happy to know them. These thoughts have been spawned influenced by interactions recent and not with John Gorman, Steve Guthrie, Second Thought Theatre, Alice Sheldon, June Guthrie, Iain Michie, Daniel Miller, Emily Guthrie, Marisa and Mark Elmore.

Is Google Serious about Selling Hardware?

Google’s approach to selling devices is beguiling, and although the volume of Android-based devices is impressive, Google seems to be leaving a lot of opportunity on the table by not extending much past code.

I bought a Nexus 4 yesterday. This was my second time to buy Nexus devices from the Google Play store, and it was just as bad as the first time.

My first purchase from the Play Store was a Nexus 7 and Nexus Q on release day: June 29th, 2012. Many things about that purchase were frustrating enough to make me hesitant about recommending it to others.

The email receipt didn’t come promptly, and that lack of communication was worrying to me. Then, there were no updates on shipping. Then, other people began receiving their Nexus 7’s and bragging about it on Twitter. Then, people would go into Staples and buy one. I still hadn’t gotten word.

It turns out that since my order included a Nexus Q, which wasn’t ready, the whole order got held up. Google ended up shipping the Nexus 7 separately from the Nexus Q, and sending me a Nexus Q for free, because it wasn’t ready. Apparently, when the Nexus Q is ready, I’ll be billed and get another one. It’s been five months, and there has been no word on its status. It’s taken long enough to resurrect it that I’m guessing that Google ends up abandoning it.

I finally received my Nexus 7 on September 2nd, but it’s remarkable how the delivery experience shaped my overall satisfaction with the product.

So two and a half months later, I guessed that Google would sort things out. They’re Google. They get things right. They improve things.

On 11/13, I went to the Play store to get a Nexus 4. I went through the order process 3-4 times, and finally got to the confirmation page. It looks like the bumper sold out while it was in my cart, and held up one purchase. I’m guessing that the lack of error handling to account for that messed that one up. I’m guessing that another one actually went through, but the confirmation HTML didn’t post correctly. When I finally got to look at my orders, I had two orders that had gone through. So I cancelled one.

Hopefully the money was refunded correctly.

Hopefully it ships on 11/15 as stated on the receipt. If Amazon were doing the fulfillment, I would have it ON 11/15. Google’s devices has created a strong doubt.

On the “order status” page, there is no estimated ship date. There is no progress indicator. There is no “feedback on this order” option.

All of this points to Google caring about innovate products, but only to the point that they are “developer finished”, as in: “The developer says they’re finished.”

For a successful product launch, products need to be “consumer finished”. That means that consumers need to think that the product is finished, or be persuaded that the product is finished. It needs a communications strategy around communicating that idea.

If Google was good getting products “consumer finished”, device manufacturers and carriers would have their influence squeezed out, and consumers could have better Google-based products.

As it stands, Google leaves most of the packaging and delivery of products up to their partners, rather than being a product provider. Logitech, LG, Vizio, and HTC are product providers.

Google isn’t a product provider.

Google is a platform provider, and they make samples of how that platform may be delivered in product form.

Key parts of how a product is delivered is in the documentation, PR, sales process, fulfillment, retail partnerships, marketing, and ongoing support. Logitech does all of that except for the PR well. Apple does all of it well (Maps rollout excluded).

Since the manufacturers can’t trust Google to provide a finished product, they have to, they take on some of the platform responsibilities as well. HTC,  Motorola, and Samsung all put their own UI on top of Android so they can deliver a consistent experience to their customers, which also serves as a bloat-ware platform.

People like me, who care about getting the latest in the platform improvements, and not having our updates filtered through the Google –> Samsung –> Verizon path, can get Nexus devices directly from Google. But we have to put up with buying them online without a way to interact with them first, or get the pure device subsidized.

And then there are devices like the Nexus Q, which are interesting, and do some things well, but don’t support standard accepted tasks, like Bluetooth streaming, or screen mirroring. Mine is collecting dust while my Logitech Boombox is used all day every day, even though I’d prefer to use the Nexus Q.

And then there’s Google TV, which Logitech lost over $100M on. That device wasn’t finished, didn’t feel finished, but had a TON of potential. Part of the problems was Google’s inability to make partnerships with content providers, and the pipes that deliver that content. They seem to be attacking the problem from a different angle through their product roll out in Kansas City. But Google hasn’t given up on GoogleTV, but their approach is now integrated into TVs, much like Android is integrated into phones that they don’t make.

The end result is that Google creates interesting and powerful software platforms, but seem to leave the delivery of those products up to the grownups who can release them to consumers as finished products. It ends up getting Google software into the hands of many people, but it isn’t executed in a way that Google ends up having as much influence as they could, and consumers end up having confusing affiliations that are watered down.

 

 

 

Reasonable Suspicion

The US Government is a mess. Congress is full of a bunch of ideologues who refuse to compromise. The cynical view is that they’ve all been bought, and there is a good chance that’s correct.

A good place to start considering how to fix corruption is to look at how to measure it.

A good place to look for the source of corruption is the combination of advertising and lobbying. Off the top of my head, the industries that seem to participate in both are:

  • Processed Foods
  • Mass Retailers
  • Fossil Fuels
  • Fast Food
  • Wireless Telephone Companies
  • Car Manufacturers
  • Dairy
  • Banks

Further research on lobbying and advertising show the following that should have been more obvious:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Insurance
  • Realtors
  • Macro-Brewed Beer
  • Tobacco
  • Guns
  • Home Builders

There are a few key reasons for these industries to lobby:

  1. To keep favorable laws in place
    • Macro-Brewed Beer – Protecting the silly prohibition-era laws that let Anheiser Bush own the beer distribution and retailing markets
    • Real Estate laws that protect their 6% a new home purchase price
    • Mass Retailers and Fast Food who rely on government subsidies and minimum wage levels to support their below-poverty level wages
    • The  dairy industry who has built a market based on lies
    • Home Builders who need a country that encourages suburbia laws and highways to keep new housing prices low enough to justify long commutes
  2. To prevent potentially damaging laws
    • Fossil Fuels that benefit from a lack of environmental focus that dooms us to burn up rather than invest in alternative fuels and laws that support a life on earth beyond 50 years from now
    • Insurance who doesn’t know what government might do, but whatever it might be is scary.
    • Meat who faces risks from environmental impact, animal rights, and nutritional advocates
    • Tobacco to slow the destruction of their industry
    • Guns to prevent regulations that fuel their market through the their ability to fuel mass murder
    • Banks who don’t want regulations or reasonable incentive pay changes to encourage prudence over risk

When looking for a recipe that encourages corruption, the intersection of advertising and lobbying is a great place to look.

Something that allows lobbying to persist is the public votes of legislators. That allows lobbyists to get confirmation that they were able to buy their votes. With private voting by legislators, they would be more reluctant to pay a lot of money to legislators to buy their votes.

Republicans seem to have found a recipe to court a lobbying juggernaut of lack of regulations that allows big businesses to profit at the expense of general welfare (minimum wage, environment/pollution/global warming) by leveraging public paranoia on social issues that encourage the suppression of weaker political groups (homosexuals, blacks, hispanics) as justification for them to be able to get elected.

I’d be interested in the relative amount spent on buying the two political parties, and the number of people who are the beneficiaries of those purchases.

Minimal research has pointed to opensecrets.org as a great resource for looking at lobbying data.

Defining “Good Sports”

Something I love about the Olympics is considering what is a good sport, and what is not.

My keys for makes a “good sport” are loosely:

  • There are men and women who participate in the sport
  • Most humans will naturally discover if they are good at the sport relative to their peers
  • A large number of countries field athletes in the sport

Based on those rules, it’s good that baseball and softball were dropped.

  • The barriers to entry should be low, and equipment should be inexpensive (running/soccer = good, horse jumping = bad)
  • The competitors per square foot should be high when a dedicated field is required (basketball/badminton/boxing = good, rowing = bad)
  • The more uses a field of play has, the better (volleyball, track, soccer, field hockey, badminton = good, Canoe Slalom = bad)
  • You can see the competitors, and judge relative strain (track, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, weight lifting = good. Fencing, swimming = bad)
A rant against Canoe Slalom

Canoe Slalom is my target for the Olympic sport that needs to be killed off. I actually like it as a sport, but it shouldn’t be an Olympic sport. The fact that the courses are man made, and need to be pumped seems to be a huge waste. If you’re going to do white water rafting, it should be done somewhere where it naturally occurs.

The Sydney games course only cost $6M, which is less than I expected. The Lee Valley White Water Centre for the London Games cost $50.2M, which is more in line with what I would expect.

The number of listed competitors for Canoe Slalom is 84, and I think is the only discipline that uses that venue. Based on that calculation, that venue cost $600,000 per competitor.

The Canoe Slalom is an event that almost nobody is going to naturally discover a talent for. It’s much more likely that it has competitors just because it happens to be an Olympic sport.

 

Analysis of Gowalla and Foursquare at WWDC. Not Apples to Apples

Apple’s World Developer Conference is going on right now. It is the epicenter of the app creation world and should represent the greatest collection of taste makers and thought leaders in the mobile space.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity to read the tea leaves of the Gowalla vs. Foursquare battle.

I started tracking the check-ins 30 minutes before the keynote. This started at 8:30 am pacific in San Francisco.

Some information about the setting: this event for 5700 sold out in 8 days. People from all over the world come in for it. The people I follow in Twitter who are there are from UK, Netherlands and Frisco, TX. The line to get in wrapped around the entire building. People are most likely to check-in when they have downtime, and want to advertise where they are. In line at WWDC is ideal.

Once the presentation started at 9:00 AM,  people are most likely absolutely riveted by the presentation. These are people who live and breathe apple and this is a big deal.

Searching Google News yields 2,104 Foursquare mentions vs. 264 for Gowalla. So Foursquare gets about 10x of  the press, and that generally reflects market share.  “Ford” yields 17,693 results and GM yeilds 14,988. When compared, that’s a rough anagram to their market share.

So, given that information about the scene and news coverage, who won the checkin war?

Well, 30 minutes before Steve Jobs took the stage, Foursquare was ahead 286 to Gowalla’s 187 check-ins, or 60.5% of the total. That doesn’t quite live up to the 10x media coverage.

If you were going to get into the keynote, you were likely there 30 minutes before. I wish I had started watching this comparison sooner.

By 9:00 am, Foursquare was up 332 to 199, or 63%. Why would they be building share?

Now, 1 hour into the presentation, and 1.5 hours after I started tracking, Foursquare is up to 67% of the checkins.

The interesting thing is that in the 30 minutes up to the keynote, Gowalla went up 6% and Foursquare 16%. Ok, so maybe Foursquare users are tardy.

In the 30 minutes after the keynote started, and everyone who is there would have checked in, Gowalla went up 2.5% and Foursquare went up another 6.5%.

An hour in, Gowalla went up another .5% and Foursquare went up 7.6%.

Why would Foursquare get 24% of its checkins in the hour after the keynote started while Gowalla only got 3% after the keynote started?

Because 24% of the Foursquare users are not there! They’re cheating and diluting the experience for everyone else, and Gowalla’s users are actually there and paying attention to the presentation.

Ok, so that was the theory. How do you go about checking that?

Both Gowalla and Foursquare have checkin pages that you can monitor. Check Foursquare’s here http://bit.ly/bbzrEl and Gowalla’s  http://bit.ly/auKREZ. I figured I’d check out where people with the most recent checkins were from.

As I suspected, I had to go through 20 Foursquare users to find one from outside San Fransciso and only 3 Gowalla users.

To take out less chance, of the last 10 checkins for each (84 minutes in)

Gowalla 01011 01100 = 50% based in San Francisco

Foursquare 11111 11111 = 100% based in San Francisco.

Since Foursquare has less control and precision requirements than Gowalla, you have to be somewhere to check in. With Foursquare allowing users to check in places that they aren’t, the temptation to lie is too great and many people will.

This rings some bells for me.

History Repeating Itself

Something else like this came along 3-5 years ago that is remarkably similar. MySpace was the first breakout player in social networking. It started out simple enough. Then, people got the ability to customize their pages, and it got awful. It’s amazing how awfully most people will decorate when given the chance.

Facebook came along with less ability for people to muck things up and trounced MySpace.

This is just a fun opportunity to link to ugly MySpace accounts: 1 2 3 I would have added more, but the last one started playing awful music loudly.

What Wins, and Why

In the long run, I see quality outpacing quantity, and it will be more so for the location wars. If I’m going to be connected to someone on a check-in service, I want to know where they actually are, and not simply where they want to say they are. Those who “fake check-in” will turn their friends off and ruin their experiences.

Foursquare could tighten up their requirements, but they won’t. They have too much of a precedent for flexibility (positive spin) or sloppiness (negative spin). I don’t think they have the guts to remove the ability to lie.

Gowalla does this right, and as long as they keep doing it right, hopefully the press and the user base will support them.

Advertisers and investors should care about reaching the people inside WWDC and not the people outside, who are just lying about being there.

Raw Data

Timestamp Gowalla Foursquare Relative use G Late Checkins F Late Checkins
8:29 187 286 60.47%
8:41 192 310 61.75%
8:44 192 311 61.83%
8:51 196 322 62.16%
8:53 198 325 62.14%
8:58 198 332 62.64% 6.0% 16.0%
9:07 199 346 63.49%
9:14 201 353 63.72%
9:28 203 369 64.51% 8.5% 22.5%
9:39 203 386 65.53%
9:57 203 410 66.88%
10:04 204 413 66.94% 9.0% 30.1%
10:23 204 424 67.52%

What I learned today: 2/16/2010

Kick users off Terminal Services (Windows server management)

Agile Manifesto (Software development principles)

NPR Story: Why Does Time Fly By As You Get Older – We perceive time by how much we have to write into our brain. The older we get, the less new experiences we have, the less we need to learn/remember. When reflecting on our lives, our youth is more packed with memories, and therefore seems like time went slower.

Five Things MindBites learned from building their mobile site

How to Improve America’s Legislature

The American government has some things that are worth considering fixing. (two suggestions at the end)

There are two items that are the cause of the issue, and neither are bad in their own right, but when put together cause problems.
1. Representation based on geographical districts
2. Bills get edited and end up much larger than when they start out.

The legislative branch is the strongest wing of our government. It is fractured by design to make sure that everyone is represented. The problem with this is that it leaves the executive branch to look out for everyone, as a whole.

Case in point: the current health care bill (12/2009). From what I can tell, it started out being relatively clean with the goal of reigning in the insurance industry, trying to cut down overall health care costs, and keep people from going bankrupt to pay for health care, with the expansion of government coverage.

The bill as it stands has been diluted from two directions in order to get enough legislative support to pass it. First, things like the public option and single payer have been removed. That must have earned more votes than it lost. The remaining votes had to be bought with earmarks, or giveaways to their districts.

So, anyone who is going to support the bill now, because of earmarks for them, is no longer voting for the bill, but instead voting for the earmarks in the bill.

So, how to fix this.

1. A per-capita tax of 50% for benefits within a bill based on district. Does the federal government give your town $50m to build a dike? Great. The 300,000 voters in your district now pay $83.33 as their share of the dike. But now, rather than it being paid for at a rate of 0.0005%, it’s now 50%. Pork projects by representatives would be received differently if the represented people actually had to pay for some of the pork.

2. Each bill only does one thing. Sure, you’ll have gridlock without people voting for their earmarks. But there’s gridlock now, and the price for unlocking the gridlock is tons of unnecessary spending. So, if you want earmarks write it so people will vote for it on its own. Your district will be paying 50% of the cost, so sure. This also removes the need for a line-item veto.

Unused Apps. The orphans of the App Store.

Over the last two years, I have been a heavy user of the Apple App store. Based on data, my usage is in line with average usage, but at about 4x the volume of average.

Part of this heavy usage is due to being product manager for an app, and the rest can be chalked up to curiosity and an addictive personality.

In discussions with businesses about a mobility strategy and how they can use mobility to communicate with their customers, their first impulse is to listen and discuss.

The second impulse is to think “Branded App!”

Why a branded app is almost always a bad idea

Just a little bit of research will show two points:

  • Most apps that get downloaded are never used within 3 days of being downloaded
  • Most apps are barely ever downloaded

Stats to back it up:

  • It is hard to get downloaded at all: AndroLib (fantastic live Android stats) as of 12/16/2009: of 20,164 apps, 30.5% have fewer than 50 downloads. Only 14% of all apps have more than 10,000 downloads, and less than 1% has more than 250,000 downloads.
  • Once downloaded, few applications are kept: Pinch Media has an excellent report. See slide 12/33. The day after a free app download, usage drops to 20% and continues a logarithmic decrease, hitting 5% after a month. If you’ve made it that far, congrats, you are only going to lose 50% of your users over the next month. “Long-term audiences are generally 1% of total downloads.” “Branded applications care deeply about engagement.”

So, some quick analysis of this. Say PicoPaint makes car paint, and they want to drive you to car painting places that use their paint, and sell you on why to use their paint. They start talking mobility and think “Let’s get an app!”

An app can cost as little as $5,000. That’s not much more than an ad in an industry magazine. Sold! Right? No.

To integrate location based recommendations for where to get your car painted once launched, that means a database of all vendors with your paint. It also means web services to populate that recommendation. You’re now at least $15,000 invested, and that’s just the outsourced time. PicoPaint’s marketing department has now been distracted from core marketing on this side project.

So PicoPaint goes ahead and spends $15,000 on the app, and four weeks of marketing time in planning (another $8,000).

What do they get:

  • An industry press release, and buzz at being cutting edge.
  • Employees take pride in being associated with something as cool as the App store.
  • 40 people who aren’t employees or competitors download the app.
  • After 24 hours, 4 people still have it on their phone.
  • Maybe one person is influenced to use PicoPaint rather than an alternative.

That looks like a horrible return on investment to me.

What would be better

Get listed in apps that are established and have dynamic content. Options:

  • Mobile ads. Pay to be part of a local newspaper app’s add content. $23,000 would go a long way at $0.10 per click.
  • Content in a location based content server.

InView Mobile Solves This Problem

Disclaimer: I product manage InView Mobile

This problem is solved using InView Mobile. InView Mobile is a directory of content that is nearby, and a player for mobile content, just like an app, but with many sets of content within the app.

The content in the directory may be an ad, or a coupon, or just information about a location. It has value for being dynamic content, which is more appealing to consumers. As they move around, the top content changes. That adds to the appeal of keeping it longer than one day. The PicoPaint app would always be the same.

Also, with InView Mobile, there is far less cost to update the app with new content. InView Mobile content can be created within hours, by anyone, and updated within minutes. App store approval lead time is 2-4 weeks. With 50,000+ apps needing updates, and apps every day, there is no telling what lead time would be required.

The big value here is that with many venues pushing InView Mobile as a source to see their content, it creates an ecosystem within one app to drive usage. The more venues that have InView Mobile content, the more nearby venues will also have their content viewed.

So, if PicoPaint went with InView Mobile, someone at TacoTaco who launched InView Mobile for a 2-for-1 special may see the PicoPaint listing and check that out. Almost nobody will search for, find and download a PicoPaint standalone app. And nobody would keep the PicoPaint app after a few days.

Search the Apple App store for InView Mobile for samples. Hit up @benguthrie @inviewmobile for feedback.

HTML5 Sample Repository

These are some things to show HTML5 Functionality

Simple Samples:

Show-Off Sites:

  • http://mugtug.com/sketchpad/

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