“Sam Walton: Made In America” by Sam Walton

I’ve recently finished a fascinating book on the history of Walmart, as told by its founder, Sam Walton.  Written in the last year before he died in 1992.  At that time Walmart was a $53billion turnover company, and for some context, if you had bought $100 shares at its initial IPO in the early 1970’s, they would be worth $3.8million today (the shares split so many times over the years).

This is a very easy read with no effort required, but offers a great insight into how he managed the growth of such a large corporate.   He had some wonderful ideas and asked a lot from his managers – namely keeping the customer in mind at all times.   He wanted everyone (and I mean everyone) to be on the shop floor at least once a week and engaging with a shopper.

There are lots of “ah ha” moments in the book (history of Sams club), why Walmart has greeters (very surprising reason), and how he is proud to say he has the biggest fleet of millionaire trucker drivers in the country (everyone has stocks in Walmart).  Also beautiful tales of how he stole ideas from all the other retailers including Kroger, Target and JCPenny.  

He held all his management meetings on a Saturday morning as he didn’t believe real retailers worked 9-to-5.   He also wasn’t a believer in having the company pay for things – so when the corporate headquarters got a new gym and sports centre, he said that the $3M should come out of his pocket and not out of the shoppers pocket.   To this day (1992), he is proud that their offices in Bentoville will never win any design awards.

This book was on the short list for Jeff Bezos as he was inspired by Sam’s attention to the customer that he “stole” that idea for Amazon.

“Sam Walton: Made In America” by Sam Walton

“Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think” by: Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, Kenneth Cukier

This book was recommended to me by a colleague and after a few days it was read cover-2-cover and only now am I reflecting back on its message.

First thing, the title is completely misleading.  Yes the authors talk a lot about “big data”, but that I feel misses the message of the book as a whole, which is the historical look at how data has shaped our society and thinking through the ages.   This book will not be read by those that think “Big Data” is just a fad and will miss some beautiful nuggets of “ooh is that how they do that”.

What this book illustrates very concisely is that “big data” is nothing really new, it is something that ever since the first printing presses start mass producing books, we’ve been living with the question on how do we use and apply more and more data.

It mentions the paradigm N=all which in geek speak is a way of saying that technology (storage and processing) has allowed us to look at every single piece of data and no longer tolerate sampling data looking for trends and making guessestimates.

There are great stories on how UPS saved over 3,000,000 miles a year from its fleet by looking at all the data (route trucks by making more right hand turns to reduce the traffic accidents).  How our shipping lanes evolved to take account of weather patterns.   How flu hot spots were identified by looking at search patterns.  How historical flight data with weather data predicts when flights are going to be delayed.   There is a wonderful story on how the designer of captcha used that technology to help Google identify words in the books it was using for scanning.

Each story highlights a new way of looking at data that was once first useless and dated.  It does point to the fact that humans aren’t as individualistic as we may like to think.

Overall this is a great book to make you think about your data as a whole and who and what is using it.

“Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think” by: Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, Kenneth Cukier

Yahoo ‘to buy Tumblr for $1.1bn’

Yahoo’s board has approved a deal to buy New York-based blogging service Tumblr for $1.1bn (£725m), US media reports say.

The acquisition is expected to be announced as early as Monday.

Once more I have done it again; signed up for a service and in a matter of days learn it is to be acquired.  I did the precise thing with posterous just before Twitter purchased them and ran it into the ground.

One wonders what Yahoo plans to do with this mini-social network that is weighed down by a lot of adult content that is just very hard to monetize with advertising.

The news is that they are going to continue running it as is, but that is only going to last for so long.  I have no doubt that Marissa Mayer has plans for what she is going to be doing with Tumblr.

This acquisition was a little surprise for the industry, as all the buzz has been around the intense talks with Hulu to purchase them for a $1bn.   A much more complicated deal as you are really buying all the licensing agreements with the major TV/movie studios.

Is all this consolidation into a handful of big operators (Google, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon) a good thing for us consumers or not?

Yahoo ‘to buy Tumblr for $1.1bn’

NetworkSolutions – is there any real point of them?

I have been a loyal user of NetworkSolutions for near on 10 years. At my usage peak I had well over a 100 domains managed through them.  However, of late I have been slowly transferring blocks of them over to GoDaddy.  Why?

Simple.  Their user interface is an abortion of Web2,0 magnitude.  Too many upsells, too confusing, most importantly, it doesn’t work half the time!

Couple all of that with the fact their pricing is one of the most expensive in the domain space, why would people still continue to spend money with them?

I know it can be a pain and hassle to transfer domains, but that shouldn’t stop you.   How many people are with NetworkSolutions because they want to be, versus, those that can’t be bothered with the hassle of transferring to another provided?

To illustrate the point, I have just transferred a .co.uk to GoDaddy for $0 for the year.  Just saved $72 in the space of 5 minutes.

Free Yourself from Conventional Thinking

An excellent piece on what it means to break away from the conventional wisdom and stop repeating the same tasks.  

If your company tells you that they will get it next year and this year it’s too late, then stop and challenge.   Was that the attitude the year before?  What about the year before that?

Free Yourself from Conventional Thinking


Fractured Prune Donuts #lancaster #donuts #powerrings

Lancaster, PA

3 out of 5 on the donut scale

One of our chaps brought in 3 boxes of wonderful doughnuts which is just the sort of thing you need to power through the mornings worth of meetings.   Development is not always cutting code.