Showing posts from 2010

Here's my Grand Unified Theory of GroupOn (GUTOGON)

Here's my Grand Unified Theory of GroupOn (GUTOGON):
GroupOn is at heart a coupon site. They've done 2 things to separate themselves from normal coupon sites: Pre-purchasing & Very short-deal duration. This model has helped preserve retailer margins by preventing widespread use of coupons by casual customers. It's also a good model for forcing customers to make "mistakes" (i.e pre-purchasing deals they will not really want/use). Over the long-term though, it's a very customer-hostile model. There are very few business which try to force a pre-purchase model, and when they do it reflects the underlying business reality where capacity is limited (such as a non-refundable plane ticket). Even a single "bad" experience where a coupon goes unused, will tend to turn customers away as people remember bad experiences more strongly than good ones.
I think GroupOn has also done a few things which have helped them but are not sustainable. First, the core…

Pass the salt, please

This has been around for a while, but it's still good reading summarizing the nutritional science of salt:

It might have been the ideal solution to the salt controversy had not the salt controversy turned out to be the ideal situation to demonstrate the questionable nature of meta-analysisThese findings made Intersalt Rorschach-like in its ability to generate conflicting interpretations

I'll spoil the ending- no need to skimp on the salt over Thanksgiving.

Economic & Climate modeling

On the subject of modelling - here's a good post pointing out the similarities between the Economics and Climate, both the inherent uncertainty and the political climate:

No Disagreement Whatsoever

Delta's new approach to customer service

I've observed that Delta has an interesting customer service model. It works something like this:

1. Use automated system to Screw the customer
2. Use automated systems to inform customer of their screwing.
3. Use automated system to field initial customer complaints.
4. Use human representative to inform customer there is nothing they can do to remedy.
5. Use human representative to insist there is nothing they can do.
6. Hope that customers cell phone runs out of power on hold.
7. Lie to customer.
8. If customer persists past this point, do what the automated system in step 1 should have done to begin with.

We flew Delta on our recent trip to Savannah. The trip there was fine, but on the way back, Delta's new customer service was on display.

I checked-in online about 20 hours before the flight. I noticed that we had terrible seats for the 5 hour flight from Atlanta- 42B & 43B, two middle seats in different rows! (Step 1 & 2) Which is weird since I'd picked out seats (tog…

Thoughts on climate modeling

This is cobbled together from a Buzz thread (yes, Google Buzz) about Global Warming. I think there are a lot of lay people who accept the science of Global Warming without understanding that most of the projected warming comes not from physics, but solely from computer models of the Earth's climate. Here's why these models (and thus Global Warming) are on very shaky ground.
Belief in Global Warming comes down to your faith in computer models.
The models are so important because CO2 itself will not warm the earth that much. Basic physics precits something like 0.5-1.5 degree Celsius over the next 100 years. That's the direct effect of the heat-trapping of CO2, and I think that's a reasonable forecast.
The much greater warming projected by groups like the IPCC comes from positive feedback effects shown in computer models. That is- that 1 degree warming will be amplified by other processes in the climate system, resulting in much larger overall warming- 3-4 degrees.