Amsterdam

image The last three days (including today) I’ve been in Amsterdam on business.  Very cool city – I wasn’t looking forward to this leg of my trip, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to come here.  More pictures from the trip can be found here.

While in town, I visited the Van Gogh Museum (neat), the Rijksmuseum (meh, old art), Anne Frank House (wow, talk about sobering), and just generally milled about the city.  Weather was great during my time here, and I walked about 25km (9km on day 1 and 16km on day 2).

While in town, I visited the Global Switch datacenter near the airport.  The most interesting thing about this facility is that it used to be an IBM Selectric Typewriter facility.  It’s peculiar that as the typewriter aspects of the building went by the wayside, some enterprising individual converted the building to a datacenter.  As one of my colleagues put it, “the computer replaced the typewriter not only on the desktop but also in the factory.”

A brief interlude

I decided to take a count of how many pages the last nearly 9 years of Playboy magazines have been.  Makes for an interesting chart:

Playboy Page Counts

I think it’s interesting to see it declining over time (the black line is a linear trendline).  If I’d had more time, interest, or data, I’d try to correlate to stock prices, count up advertising, etc.  I do think it’s interesting to see that there’s typically one issue per year that’s quite substantially larger than the norm for the year (the December 2003 spike is because of the 50th Anniversary Issue).

Wells Fargo corporate trips to Vegas

In the last few weeks, I’m really surprised to read this article

Wells Fargo, which has received approximately $25 billion dollars in federal funds, is “planning a series of corporate junkets to Las Vegas casinos this month” for some of the company’s “top mortgage officers”.  The best part of this is the explanation a Wells Fargo spokesperson gave, claiming that “recognition events are still part of [Wells Fargo’s] culture.” 

I think it’s apparent to pretty much anyone watching the financial meltdown that sending a bunch of execs to Vegas casinos is pretty much a part of their corporate culture.

update! they’ve called off the Vegas trip.  I doubt I had anything to do with it. 🙂

NASA’s Brilliance in Marketing

I’ve been following NASA for a long time.  It’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan.  NASA has always had a serious presence on the internet, but one of the things that I’ve noticed in the last few months is their huge push into the new web.  Various projects are all over Twitter, and the Mars Phoenix Lander just guest-blogged on Gizmodo.

It all started with Twitter.  If you go back and look at various NASA missions that use Twitter (Mars Phoenix, the Mars Rovers, Cassini, Mars Science Lab… the list goes on), most of them are unmanned missions that have had to fight hard for funding.  Similar projects in the future will probably have to fight that much harder for money.

Unmanned missions don’t have the same glamour as manned missions, so they don’t get the same level of popular support.  To secure funding in the future, you’ve got to have popular support.

What’s the solution to solving that? 

Personalize the unmanned missions.

Seriously.  Go back and read the Twitter histories of the missions, the Mars Phoenix being the best example.  They Twitter as if it’s a person on Mars, and people send it (him?)  her?) messages about feeling sad for it since it’s going into the Martian winter.  The outpouring of support for this little lander on Twitter is amazing.

And it’s all because NASA personified the mission.  I don’t know if this was NASA’s intent, but it seems to be working.  Great advertising.

Kudos, Amazon.com!

Amazon recently (today?) launched what they’re terming “Frustration-Free Packaging.”  Basically, instead of getting things in the retail packaging, you get it in a brown box with plastic pillow packaging.  The number of things you can get in FFP isn’t high right now, but it’s a huge start.

From their description of the FFP on a Fisher-Price pirate ship:

This item is delivered in an easy-to-open recyclable box and eliminates 36 inches of wire ties, 1,576.5 square inches of package inserts, and 36.1 square inches of printed carton materials. Also eliminated are 175.25 square inches of PVC blisters, 3.5 square inches of ABS molded styrene, and two plastic fasteners.

Brilliant.  I hope to see more products offered like this, because the retail packaging is irrelevant when you’re buying stuff over the internet.