A Blog by Jonathan Low


May 27, 2017

Angry About Zillow Home Price Estimates? Win a Prize For Improving Them

Which might even provide you with enough for a down payment on a house in a hip, tech-savvy urban market. JL

Nick Wingfield reports in the New York Times:

Zestimate, from the online real estate website Zillow — began on the internet 11 years ago and has amassed a huge audience of homeowners, shoppers and nosy neighbors. Sellers say unfair Zestimates can kill offers on their homes.171 million people visit Zillow each month. The Zillow Prize, (is) a $1 million award to the individual or team that can most improve the Zestimate algorithm.

More Uber and Lyft Riders Are Giving Up Their Own Cars: Polling Data

The overriding implication is that the ease of use and relative cost of cars services, ride sharing et al is evidence of a significant change in lifestyle driven by technology. This portends potential acceptance - and even embrace - of even more radical shifts as self-driving technology matures. JL

Peter Henderson reports in Reuters:

A quarter of Americans gave up their car in the last year, and 9% of that group turned to  Lyft or Uber to get around, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll. 39% of Americans had used rides services and that 27% did so several times per week. A significant number of people have changed their lifestyle and are now relying more on ride services than their own car. Auto makers believe fast adoption of ride services bodes well for self-driving car technology

How Best Buy Is Defying Amazon and Generating Higher Sales

The strategy hinges on Best Buy's re-imagination of the store concept, turning it from a low margin source of do-it-yourself sales into a high margin  repository of convenience and speed via consumer information, logistics and customer service. JL

Khadeeja Safdar reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Best Buy operates 1,600 locations and is increasingly able to use them to build its e-commerce business. Half its online orders are now shipped or picked up from its stores. “They’re a great asset f(or) the customer experience on the more complex categories or experiences, and from a shipping and logistics standpoint.” The company eliminated floorspace dedicated to DVDs, giving it to brands such as Samsung and Microsoft , which pay rent and provide staff expertise.

May 26, 2017

The Disappearing Computer: How Tech Will Soon Be Invisible

Not only are you now the data; soon, you will be the computer. JL

Walt Mossberg reports in Re/code:

Technology, the computer inside all things, will fade into the background. It may disappear, waiting to be activated by a voice command, a person entering the room, change in blood chemistry, a shift in temperature, a motion, maybe just a thought. This is ambient computing, the transformation of the environment around us with intelligence and capabilities that don’t seem to be there. The last few decades, it’s been about objects and processes. This time it’ll be about experiences.

The Reason Google Is Suddenly Obsessed With Your Photos

If it can be up or downloaded, it's data. JL

Victor Luckerson reports in Medium:

Why is Google offering a product that doesn’t appear to be readily monetizable? To keep people within its ecosystem. Today’s tech giants serve as caretakers to our digital lives in exchange for our personal information. “Even if Google doesn’t make any money directly from something that it offers, it’s still gathering data." A photo album used to be a photo album. Now it’s a searchable database that is self-aware enough to infer human relationships. We’re in the early days of them figuring out how to make money off it.

Do You Have To Be A Jerk To Found A Great Startup?

No. But it doesn't hurt. JL

Ian Leslie comments in New Statesman:

Lack of social skills will hold you back in most areas of life, (but) can be an advantage to the entrepreneur. Those with a normal desire to fit in are easily persuaded to abandon strange sounding  notions; those who don’t care about being liked pursue them regardless. To be unbending, it helps to be insensitive. Travis Kalanick is a computer engineer.He is interested in people the way a physicist is interested in atoms.

Summer Hours and Flexible Fridays: So Whose Idea Was This?

It's the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, people! 

Which means, in the immortal lyrics of The Jamies' 1958 hit, "it's summertime, summertime, sum-sum summertime." At least theoretically, especially for those who still live in climates where it remains 57 degrees (Fahrenheit) and raining.

And along with the advent of summer come summer hours and Flexible Fridays. So, herewith, a brief history of those notable advances in work-life sanity as well as a description of their manifest advantages. JL

Lisa Evans reports in Entrepreneur:

In the 1960s, ad agencies in New York began noticing a dip in employee productivity on Fridays during summer when the hot sun caused people to shift into weekend mode before the workweek was over. Employees who benefited from summer hours were happier and more productive. 87% of those who had summer hours said this contributed to a healthy work/life balance and 76% agreed Summer Friday policies were an effective tool to boost productivity. (But) only 12% of adult workers experience Summer Fridays.