A Blog by Jonathan Low


Aug 17, 2019

Study Finally Reveals How Many Cooks It Takes To Spoil the Broth

The issue is tied to consumers' views of the interplay between quality and complexity. And there is definitely a point at which there can be too much of a good thing. JL

Dylan Walsh reports in Yale Insights:

How much collaboration feels like too much of a good thing? It’s is increasingly relevant to businesses, since many companies are marketing their products by raising the curtain on the creative process. The cookie baked by four people, participants said, tasted better than the cookie baked by one person, and better than the cookie baked by eight. Some collaboration proved beneficial, but, past a certain threshold “increasing collaboration did not make for an increasingly tasty cookie.” This “sweet spot” is tied to task complexity. When people think something is complex, they believe more collaborators lead to better outcomes, up to a certain point. Beyond that, impressions more partners can detract from the quality of results.

Ring Surveillance Cameras Are Saving Amazon Millions On Stolen Packages

And that doesnt include all the free data that Amazon gets from those Ring videos it gets to analyze. JL

Rani Molla reports in Re/code:

Ring conducted a survey that found a fifth of US households had a package stolen, with an average value per package of $140. Amazon found the one part of your online shopping journey it doesn’t control — what happens between placing a package on your doorstep and you taking the package inside — and decided to buy the video doorbell security company Ring to help regulate that unknown. Ring saves Amazon money by deterring package theft. It also advertises itself — and by extension becomes more effective — through its use of fear-based social media.

How Yelp and GrubHub Are Changing Restaurant Phone Numbers To More Money

Screwing over local businesses has been the dark underbelly of the digital economy since its inception. Couched in terms like disruption, disintermediation and efficiency, it all sounds very capitalistic and legal, if somewhat brutally Darwinian.

But as more evidence of fraud and self-dealing emerges as even the smallest neighborhood utilizes tech, there is a question as to whether these disruptions and efficiencies are actually benefiting consumers. JL

Adrianne Jeffries reports in Vice:

Yelp is pushing customers to Grubhub-owned phone numbers in order to facilitate what Grubhub calls a “referral fee” of between 15 and 20% of the order total. Grubhub has been creating thousands of websites in restaurants’ names, sometimes surpassing the restaurant’s own website in search engine visibility, in order to drive more online orders and commissions for Grubhub.

Research: Exercise Makes People Happier Than Having Money

Though in an ideal world, we're thinking both would be nice...JL

Ruqayyah Moynihan reports in World Economic Forum:

While those who exercised regularly tended to feel bad for around 35 days a year, non-active participants felt bad for 18 days more on average. The researchers found that physically active people feel just as good as those who don't do sports, but who earn around $25,000 more a year. You'd have to earn quite a lot more for your earnings to give you the same happiness-boosting effect sport has. (But) the mental health of those who exercised for longer than three hours a day suffered more than  those who weren't physically active.

Why Old Line Retailers Are Now Selling Used Clothes

'Thrifting' has become a fashion trend for Gen Z, making the sale of used clothes and the clothes rental model not just hip, but profitable. JL

Suzanne Kapner reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Thrifting is gaining traction as shoppers have grown more bargain conscious and concerned about the environmental impact of fashion, particularly the throwaway clothing model popularized by fast-fashion chains. Resale and rental is a way to bring younger customers in the door. Macy’s and J.C. Penney unveiled partnerships to sell used clothes and accessories in some of their stores. Patagonia plans to open a temporary store in Boulder, Colo. “There has been a change in the perception of vintage goods. Now, it’s a status symbol. It says you’ve made an intelligent and sustainable choice.”

Perception and Prediction: Is Elon Musk Wrong About LiDar For Driverless Cars?

Musk says that just using cameras, as Tesla does, is adequate - and it keeps costs down, which is important for a company like his that has a relatively fragile financial base.

The data prove that more is always better. JL

Nathan Hayflick reports in Scale:

While LiDAR has been widely embraced by self-driving vehicle developers for over a decade, Musk declared that the only hardware Tesla needs is the existing suite of cameras and sensors installed on their vehicles. Musk’s prediction cast a spotlight on a growing divide in the world of autonomous vehicles: whether to aim for vehicles that can navigate the world through sight alone or if sensors like LiDAR are necessary to counter-balance the limitations of computer vision. More robust sensors lead to higher accuracy training data which means your perception model will perform better. It’s always better to have multiple sensor modalities available.

Have Efficiency and Genericism Destroyed the Shopping Experience?

People used to travel to major cities like New York or Paris to get extraordinary products and experiences they couldnt find elsewhere. Fast forward to today and virtually everything is available by phone or computer. But the need for scale driving that process has limited what's available in the name of efficiency and convenience, reducing choice for all consumers.

The question is whether shoppers will eventually tire of the sameness - as the Chinese did of wearing Mao jackets and red-starred caps - when someone actually offers an original alternative. JL

Ginia Bellafante reports in the New York Times:

During the 1970s and ’80s, the sophisticated shopping experience was not branded in efficiency or self-denial or schemes devised in investment banks.These changes would remake New York, as the city seemed to lose what made it extraordinary in exchange for the genericism that so many people for so long had come to the city to avoid. The city produced a retail culture focused on discovery and experimentation has become a place with Amazon boxes on the stoop of every brownstone. We have allowed our habits to become so effectively manipulated toward convenience that is hard to imagine appreciating idiosyncrasy if it returned.