Category Archives: The Long Tail

the long tail is a increasingly used term to define the de-centralisation focus around a few to the many.

Dump your granny’s power company

Since I took over Decisive Flow solo, I have had my eye half open for a cool startup opportunity.

Last last year the perfect one presented itself, and since we already had a team who had spent the past few months discussing working together, we dived in and started our own power company – Power Kiwi.

A bit of background

I hate power companies in the same way that I hate banks and insurance companies and all those old fashioned industries that tie you in to long term contracts that are hard to leave (even if only because of the effort it takes). Once these companies have got you, they CAN up their prices, offer terrible support and leave you feeling miserable but with no other option.

Powershop

Powershop changes that.

The good people at Powershop wanted to create a electricity marketplace for people like you and me. It started as a shootoff from Meridian (so you can trust that they are legit) and Powershop means you have the power to choose who supplies your house with electricity EVERY TIME you pay your bill. Power Kiwi is one of the first power suppliers on Powershop.

Why i LOVE Powershop

  • I will probably save about $200 a year off my electricity bill
  • Because ALL electricity comes from the same un-differentiated grid, one of our brands (The Green Power Company) is the greenest power I can buy. We offset the carbon emissions that go into creating the electricity to your house.
  • I am part of a group of people who are genuinely revolutionising the way we buy power… for the better, using a model that CAN be pulled across to some other old fashioned markets.
  • You have as much control as you like. Either swap suppliers every time you login or choose one you like for now. If you are even more lazy, you can just leave it to Powershop to give you the cheapest power every month and automatically deduct the amount from your bank. It’s really that simple.

The Powershop marketplace is still early days, they have just launched, some things in the user experience are still being ironed out, but don’t let that put you off. I signed up a while ago now for my house (got to eat your own dog food right?) and was just given $50 free power for my efforts (which you can also take advantage of it you sign up quickly!)

But wait there’s more!

Flower PowerIf you sign up to Flower Power soon with Powerkiwi’s Daisy promotion, you get another $20 off your power bill.

So dump your granny’s power company and take control of your power bill. There’s really no reason not to!

And in case you needed further proof that this is the future, check out Powershop’s twitter page

The End of MYOB?

I was never a fan of MYOB – living in a world of web 2.0 didn’t gel so nicely with an offline accounting package that took ages to get hooked into and a manual to learn how to use.

MYOB was probably ahead pf its time when it launched, but they didn’t appear to keep up with technology improvements which makes it no surprise that they have now scaled down operations and de-listed from the stock market.

The question has been asked if the management team just gave up rather than try to convert all their old tools to new technology and delivery methods… Or if enough money was coming through that they didn’t feel the need to innovate.

Either way, the lessons that shine through for me are:

  • It doesn’t matter how ahead of the game you are initially, you NEED to constantly improve on what you’ve got.
  • The ‘general public’ is starting to catch on to web 2.0 – big players that seemed indestructible now need to react
  • Investing in Xero WAS a good idea :)

Facebook turns to crimefighting!

Apparently the Queenstown police have now got a Facebook profile. And just when we all gave up hope of Facebook ever being more than a popularity contest, the police are reporting great crime fighting results.

Over 14,000 people viewed a video of some idiot who tried to break into a safe, got hot and then removed his balaclava to unveil his face to the security camera above. He got caught and apparently is still stupid enough to do dumb things in front of cameras.

The Queenstown police report that Facebook has sparked a move back to community spirit, apparently many of us fancy ourselves as amature crime fighters and are now making use of our Facebook browsing time to bring some of the less lawful amongst us to justice.

To be honest, if the Wellington police created an account, I would be addicted. There is a little Nacy Drew in all of us and there is also the potential for many of the videos of their more stupid targets to go viral – who doesn’t like watching dumb criminals caught on tape? I also like the peer pressure element – as soon as you get caught, your mug shot gets removed from it’s publicly humiliating position on Facebook.

Queenstown police

For victims of more minor crimes, such as bike theft, taxi fare evasion etc, who used to face crazy odds against getting justice, this move to the web could well spell a happy ending to their sorry tales. I wonder if it will also significantly cut the cost of catching some perpetrators, and be the first step in making us all a little more vigilant in keeping our streets safe and our citizens honest.

Brilliant idea Queenstown police and super exciting to finally see Facebook adding real value.

Are you obsessed with your internet friends?

The guys at Read Write Web just wrote a post discussing the tendency to become obsessed with WHY people who you have never met, never will meet and know only through internet applications like Twitter, UNFRIEND you.

In real life, we have it easy. There are only so many mistakes you can make.

But on the internet, especially if you are into joining every social networking application you come across, you could wind up with severe emotional issues as to why and how you became so uninteresting, random strangers no longer want to ‘follow’ you.

I know I fight the urge to frantically read through all recent posts if my total reader numbers dip a little. I am convinced I can change for you. Become a better, more interesting, more exciting person if only you would come back and be my friend.

I have so far managed to get over it, but it does raise a good, if somewhat amusing point! As displayed in RWW, our obsessions with internet friends is clearly leading to a downward spiral that may spread into REAL WORLD INTERACTION (see below)

Why did you unfriend me

The Driver Didn’t Design the Windscreen

I caught the bus today and somehow got chatting to the driver. He went on a rant about the giant floor to ceiling windscreens buses use. They cost $3,000 a pop and because of the height of the bus, often get cracked on tree branches etc.

The bus driver thought it was a stupid idea, and that the windscreen should consist of two panes of glass so even if one gets cracked, the replacement will be cheaper and the damage generally limited to the top part of the screen so visibility isn’t impaired.

He made the comment “No bus driver would have designed a window like this”

It makes you wonder how we still manage to design and produce products without the users driving or even being involved in the process.

No Pulitzer Prize for bloggers

I just read at Seth Godin’s blog that the Pulitzer Prize people have altered the rules so that they effectively ensure that no individual blogger can ever win an award.

I think it’s stupid.

The Pulitzer Prize people have made the same mistake governments make when they ban same-sex marriage, or when anyone tries to use their influence to define who gets in and out. They create a hole in the market.

As more and more people move away from traditional mainstream media sources, all that happens when they are unrecognised is that people move towards other forms of recognition.

There are some spectacular bloggers out there and their numbers are growing by the day. If Pulitzer doesn’t recognise them, then an alternative award system will be setup and Pulitzer will slowly fade into obscurity.

And they deserve it for trying to abuse their power to shape the way people write.

When will people learn that trying to stop the inevitable will inevitably fail and they will be the worse for it. Dumb move.

We made the news!!!

Yesterday’s human-powered number 350 on Parliaments lawn, was, in my opinion, a resounding success.

Initially, it appeared that the failure to attract 350 kids was going to be a major disappointment. It’s very difficult to appear as the voice of NZ youth, when many youth would rather race home to their tv’s than get involved in politics (democracy in action!). However it was awesome to see how seriously our politicians took the crowd.

New Zealand is indeed turning into a global laughing stock on the climate change issue. While several politicans still regard their attendance at these events as nothing more than a photo shoot, I was impressed at how happy they were that we managed to gather a crowd, spell out 350 and explain how we felt it was important to reduce Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere down to this life sustaining level.

Many news cameras arrived, and due to (we’ll I’m claiming this anyway) my gagging motions in the background when Nick Smith sat down to discuss climate change for the cameras, they winded up focusing on the good stuff and not the posers. Ok the segment was at the end of the TV3 news last night, but that’s still pretty good if you ask me.

As everyone left, Verity and I found a cardboard sign floating around the lawn and felt it would be a valuable addition to our Decisive Flow memorabilia wall. Unfortunately, we had found the one sign that didn’t proclaim ‘down with climate change’

350 movement

Transport Behavior Change

Getting around Wellington

Claire (Who is now famous around Wellington for her victory in getting bikes on trains for free) is now embarking on a much larger, transport behavior change project.

I spent 2 hours last week being trained up to help out with the research. And let me tell you, it is INTENSE. We learned all sorts of weird pshycological things, like how people mimic the behavior of people they like when they are talking to them. I now notice how much of a copy cat I am and am constantly catching myself out mimicking the body language of people I’m around… So much for being a unique individual.

The research itself has provided the basis for most of my conversations last week. I find it fascinating. The myths, habits and defense mechanisms floating around out there are just incredible – as is the number of benefits we all get from using our cars less.

Cars don’t save us time, they cost us time

My favorite quote, from a woman who uses her car non-stop is “I am a busy person”.

After listening to her, it became clear that she was a busy person BECAUSE of her car. She was doing so many extra journeys every day, I hate to think of the percentage of her life she has spent in it.

It was amazing the difference between people with kids, and those without them. Basically people with less time, plan their lives better and waste less time. Those with more time, end up with virtually the same amount left over after they pack it with activities that were a complete waste of their time.

Ditching the car brings so many more benefits

Other people have come up with innovative ways to reduce their car usage and improve their lives – Like the woman who ordered her groceries online when she was pregnant and living up 5 flights of stairs. The delivery people HAD to deliver them to her kitchen, so by choosing internet shopping over the usual car trip, she not only saves money on her groceries and fuel, she saved herself the discomfort of carrying her unborn baby all that way.

But… People are scared of the other options

I don’t think I talked to one person who didn’t want to bike to work. However, EVERY single one of them was terrified of our roads. This is a shocking situation for Wellington City Council to be in. They have a bunch of people who are willing and able to cycle to work, thereby reducing congestion and increasing our overall health levels… And instead they pump more money into roads that don’t have room for cyclists.

I am a member of this group after making the commitment to bike the 7km uphill journey to visit my parents instead of driving it. After three trips where I arrived frightened for my life after cars came right into the curb and forced me to swerve onto the footpath, I gave up.

Busses offer a great alternative, but they are perceived to be late, inconvenient and full of wierdos. Being a regular bus user, I can confirm that there are no more weirdos on busses than anywhere else in the city. They also generally run on time and are becoming more efficient with the addition of the “Snapper Card” payment method.

People are ready and willing to change

Claire’s theory is that mass marketing doesn’t work. We are a nation of drivers and any changes to be made will be made by people individually re-arranging their transport schedule. After meeting several individuals, I agree. People are willing to make changes, for all sorts of reasons. And while the environment is perceived to be a big one, it’s probably far lower on the priority list of these people than you would imagine. Our transport is not just an environmentalists problem, it is one for people who want to spend more time with their kids, who like to be fit, who want to save money and who think traffic jams are one of the most abysmal ways of spending their free time.

From the number of stickers on letter boxes around Island Bay now from people partaking in this research, I think the likes of Claire are making major and sustained headway into how we get around Wellington.

The money free economy

I have just received my first ever ‘get writing you slacker’ request from a reader. Thanks Amy, I feel appreciated. Anyone who feels the need to demand blog posts from me, feel free. Sometimes I need the ego boost ;)

A couple of close friends and I have, in the past year, started thinking about kids (I know, it’s that weird clucky thing women get). We have decided that when we have children, we hope to all be living around each other, in the same neighbourhood so as to share childcare. We are all driven individuals and none of us wants to sacrifice our careers, but all of us want to spend as much time as possible with their kids. So we came up with a crafty strategy where we would have (hopefully) 6 parents around. Each parent would be responsible for 1 day of childcare a week and look after all kids (This could be one or two adults, depending on how many children are created).

This means, we are all able to work at least 4 days a week (if we want) and get some good kid time.

The concept needs tweaking but is heavily based on the idea that it takes a community to raise a child, and our belief that children need lot of parent time. It is also based on the idea of the money-free economy.

These things become more important to me and others as we rebel against the consumer driven culture and the need to earn as much as possible simply to afford all the rubbish we want to buy. In the past few months, I’ve seen more and more non money related events popping up. This is a cool, if slightly long tail orientated development and I find it really exciting.

The bestest are:

The big Schwop

The Big Schwop managed to attract a LOT of interest fromt he media and Wellingtonians. The basic principle being bring your cool, good quality stuff and get different cool, good quality stuff.

They are basically starting a designer store without the money, and we all love it.

Book Mooch

I love books and I love owning them. But seriously, once you have read them once or twice, do you really need them? This is a follow on from the traditional book fair, and is once again a matter of swapping your old books for new ones.

Lets get Schwopping!

Is there really a shortage of girls in technology?

After last night’s Geek Girl Dinner, I’m starting to wonder. The restaurant was packed with women from all walks of geek life, talking geek, learning geeky stuff and having a good time. This event came straight after reading a Wellingtonista article about another tech event that managed to attract virtually no women at all ( A common theme among non women focused tech events in Wellington)

This made me really start to question if we have a shortage of geeky girls at all. And maybe there are other factors in play as to why we women aren’t pulling our weight in the male dominated tech arena.

Geek girls don’t look and act like Geek boys

A 19 year old stood up for a lightening talk and laughed about how she is used to being one of few girls in her comp sci class, how she feels the classes aren’t tailored to how she learns and how people think she’s weird for doing it. She was beautiful, articulated and charismatic. These traits are often mistaken for those of people in marketing (A complaint I hear a lot form women in tech).

I read with sadness Brenda’s article about her treatment in the tech industry which, sadly reads rather similarly to mine – re. being mistaken for the secretary or deemed unable to understand what the men are talking about. I have also had two conversations with two tech women in the US this week. Each of them had the same complaint: EVERYONE thinks I’m in PR!

I think the world expects geeks to be male, I just don’t think we fit the stereotype, and I wonder if many geeky girls even classify themselves as geeks? Maybe there are many of us lurking around somewhere, blissfully unaware that our fondness of WoW, algorithms and code actually categorise us as true blue geek heads.

Geek Girls will sort it out

I find it amusing how the approach to integrate women is for the men to ‘create more equal environments’. That’s rubbish. Sorry guys, you can’t fix this for us. Lets face it, events organised by you are tailored to you, no matter how much you focus group with the odd woman you meet, you wont be able to oganise an event for women half as well as women organise an event for women (hense the success of last night). I would suggest maybe attending a few women dominated events, sitting back and staying fairly quiet. You may find talk of ‘imposter syndrome’ stupid, you may find the giggling ‘Sorry I’m no good at public speaking’ statements annoying, but you will gain valuable insight into a way of doing things that the mainstream male dominated events don’t really cater to.

But what about the whole community?

In my experience, great imbalances don’t get fixed in a day. I really feel like last night I experienced a grass roots movement of people trying build a new culture in an industry that is crying out for one. A natural progression of a larger, more confident female tech scene is the integration with the male tech scene in an equal and really exciting way. We may have a shortage of girls in tech, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as the typical Silicon Welly event would suggest. We also have the benefit of some very strong female leaders and sucess stories who are really getting behind the drive to encourage others like them to embrace their geeky side.

Girl Power!