Archive for January, 2006

You Know Your Industry’s Fucked When…

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

I was looking at flights today and found a feature on Travelocity I hadn’t seen before: a “1 seat left” warning. While helpful, I don’t find this feature that big a deal (Amazon’s long had a similar “only 2 left, order soon (more on the way)”) but Travelocity clearly does:

They’ve filed a patent for the feature.

Now, to be fair, Travelocity has to do a lot more work than Amazon to figure out how many items are left. Consider the complexity:

6. If you want to do a simple round-trip from BOS to LAX in two weeks, coming back in three, willing to entertain a 24 hour departure window for both parts, then limiting to “reasonable” routes (at most 3 flights and at most 10 hours or so) you have about 5,000 ways to get there and 5,000 ways to get back. Listing them is a mostly trivial graph-search (there are a few minor complications, but not many), that anybody could do in a fraction of a second.

7. The real challenge is that a single fixed itinerary (a fixed set of flights from BOS to LAX and a fixed set back) with only two flights in each direction may have more than 10,000 possible combinations of applicable “fares”, each fare with complex restrictions that must be checked against the flights and the other fares. That means that the search space for this simple trip is of the order 5000 x 5000 x 10000 [= 250 billion], and a naive program would need to do a _lot_ of computation just to validate each of these possibilities.

When your pricing is so complicated your resellers feel the need to patent a “Supplies are running out!” message, it’s well past time to fire somebody.

Die, Best Buy

Thursday, January 5th, 2006

On Sunday I needed to pick up some DVD-RWs so I could bring some, uh, material back from B-don‘s. There were few choices open in Rochester at that point (including Wal-Mart: never!) and so I made an exception and went to Best Buy.

There, deep inside the enemy’s lair, B and I discovered that the price tags were making reference to two sorts of discounts: “instant rebates” (whatever happened to “Sale”?) and “checks”. What were these “checks”? Some sort of new discount approach? I pulled a tag from the shelf and walked over to customer service to get the scoop.

At the counter, the girl told me flatly that “checks” is just the new name for “mail-in rebates.” Considering that more than 9 months ago, Best Buy pledged to phase out rebates “over the next two years” I find this practice doubly suspicious.

Why the name change if they’re going away anyway? (To be fair, this may be how they’ve done it for awhile. I do my level best not to enter the store, so I may just be late on the uptick.)

The World of Macromedia

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

This afternoon I discovered a small little feature on that pleased me. On the Studio 8 sales page, they have brief video endorsements:
man speaking with subtitles in video player

Not such a big deal in and of itself, but I enjoyed the fact that amongst the 6 speakers, four languages are spoken: German, English, and what I assume to be Japanese and Mandarin (or perhaps Min.)

Macromedia no doubt shot the testimonials for their various international divisions. Perhaps they decided to show the variety on a US page as an excuse to showcase Flash’s accessiblity features (in this case, captioning.)

Whatever the reason, I found the small reminder that people are doing great Web work all over the world refreshing.

Good Riddance, 2005

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

Well, I’ve been bouncing all around Iowa/Illinois/Minnesota for the 25 Dec – 1 Jan holiday period, so I’ve been lax on the ol’ site updates here. Big surprise.

Anyway, I notice a lot of people are writing posts summing up the previous year or outlining goals for the coming one. I’m going to skip that, mainly because it sounds like a lot of work.

Instead I’ll reduce all that to this:
Here’s hoping this year is better than last — for all of us.