Thursday, April 26, 2007

Book Report: Moneyball

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (ObAmazonLink) follows the Oakland A's baseball team through the 2002 season and explores how their GM, Billy Beane, has transformed their approach to team building from a method based on emotion and "old school baseball knowhow" to one of logic and math. The result is the creation and management of one of the cheaper teams in the MLB that manages to consistently hit the playoffs. Since a team's ROI is based on ticket sales vs. salaries, the more games you play, the more money you make. In 2006, the wins to player cost ratio was 126. The Yankees are 46 and the Giants are 79. In order to improve their total revenue to player cost ratio, the A's are building a new stadium that is expected to draw a significant increase in crowd size due to the closer proximity to Silicon Valley. (More detail over at Forbes.)

Michael Lewis does a great job of setting up the story with sufficient but not overwhelming background on the team and Billy Beane. Lewis then details several facets of the A's approach by following the draft and several trades. In essence, the book is proof by example.

Highly recommended for anyone looking to better understand the business of baseball through a good story.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good UIs, Good Marketing...

A "shout out" if you will, to a good UI. Today's winner is ZEvents which powers the San Jose Mercury's Events Calendar. It's a simple, clean, and fast events calendar that takes standard English text queries as part of its date parameters. This means I can type in "Monday" and it'll look up next Monday's calendar without me having to figure out dates in my head. ("Today" and "Tomorrow" also work.)

On the marketing side, the folks over at Will It Blend? get a pat on the back for being an effective marketing tool for Blendtec Blenders. They understand the power of viral videos and have done an excellent job at creating interesting content while remaining transparent (but not in your face) about their motives. Their web site is now a regular visit on my "once a week" blogs. Their "Don't Try This At Home" is especially entertaining.

The folks over at SSI have started their own series called Will It Shred? which features their really big industrial shredders taking on sofas, cars, and other things you wouldn't think to toss into a shredder. The SSI effort isn't nearly as well done as the Blendtec videos, but they are effective. Bottom line: both have something to teach the consumer world about effective use of the Internet in marketing promotions.

Unfortunately for the technology world, "blinky lights" when packets move just isn't as... um, amusing. Of course, I stand by my position that my suggestion for a "DDoS Big Red Button" would have made for interesting Interop antics, but alas those with the budget didn't appreciate why 10Gbps of SYN packets was cool.