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Saturday, June 28, 2003

 

Transparency

Any of us who have been through the MBA admissions process are familiar with the marketing literature slapped up on the schools' web sites and catalogs. The captions and mottos are as bold as they are ambiguous.

"WE MOLD TOMORROW'S WORLD LEADERS"
"LEARN, APPLY, GO FORTH AND EARN"
"BOLDLY DARE TO LEAD, DARINGLY, AND WITH BOLDNESS"
"THE CASE METHOD MEETS MACHIAVELLI. GLOBALLY."

Ok those aren't verbatim, (although HBS provides some good inspiration), but marketing literature only goes so far when you're deciding on a school. Among other things, prospective students want to know the personality of a school. The popularity of the BusinessWeek B-schools forum demonstrates the need for information outside of the traditional web sites and catalogs.

One thing that impresses me about Wharton is how open its walls are. Between the Student Diaries project, the student 2 student forums, chat, and the admit discussion groups, you get a fairly honest picture of what it's like to be a Wharton student. Real quotes from the Diaries: "The male female ratio at Wharton presents few prospects here" or "...there's no shortage of clubs/activities/organizations wanting my money. one would think that $30,000+ of tuition would cover the university gym membership or membership into the wharton graduate association. apparently not." These are not the kind of things that you find in a postured "Day in the life" sketch.

Alex Brown, the man who has much to do with Wharton's transparency, writes an interesting white paper on the subject (thanks to Tad for this link). The paper gives other schools practical advice on providing an honest "what you see is what you get" atmosphere through the use of message boards, chat rooms, and blogs. The downside risk to all of this transparency, as Alex points out, is reducing your potential pool of applicants. But the applicants that stick around may be a better fit.

What's even more interesting is to consider how transparency and openness applies to just about any organization... or for that matter, to individuals....


posted by Ryan : 12:31 PM | permalink

Monday, June 23, 2003

 

12c for every $1


It's not surprising that the dinosaur music labels are having a hard time evolving a business model for digitial music distribution. What's amazing is how bad a deal the whole thing still is for music artists. According to Business 2.0, only 12c out of every $1 spent on digital music makes it into the artist's pocket. This is through legitimate online music distribution channels, such as iTunes.

It will not be hard to imagine larger bands breaking free from the labels and selling their own music one day (as Pearl Jam already is). Why not? Once a band has an established following, why shouldn't they keep 60 cents on the dollar instead of 12? This is great for the Pearl Jams, Phishes, and Grateful Deads of the world. But, sadly, most smaller artists will still need to rely on the record labels' power of publicity and promotion. With any hope, however, the progress we will see in the market for digital music distribution will benefit the artists at least as much as it will benefit the labels and retailers. This goes beyond technological innovation.... this is simply free market economics.

posted by Ryan : 9:10 PM | permalink
 

New calculator (yawn)

I can think of a million ways I'd like to spend $80, but a calculator made in 1986 isn't one of them. I just bought Wharton's recommended calculator, the HP 19B II on eBay.

As an econ major in college, I got by with a $5 calculator. Solar powered too. No manual to speak of.

The HP 19B II's manual is 361 pages. That's about the same size as a Mario Puzo novel I just bought. It's summertime, folks. Something tells me that Reverse Polish Notation will take a backseat to an epic tale of Sicilian friendship, deceit, and love.

posted by Ryan : 12:38 AM | permalink

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

 

MSN going after Google

Interesting scoop if you follow the Internet search market. MSN, which is currently #3 in search (and outsources its search results to Inktomi and Looksmart), is starting to generate search results on its own, and will eventually incorporate search into Windows. And, of course, they're hiring. It was only a matter of time...

posted by Ryan : 11:33 PM | permalink
 

Jobs don't come on silver platters??

A recent BusinessWeek poll shows that only 39% of 2003 MBA graduates are satisfied with their job security at the moment. And only 8% of respondents called their school career center "outstanding".

Shocking stuff (if you were reading it in 1999). Not surprising given it's 2003, and we all know what the current environment is like (MBA or not).

It's tempting for a non-MBA to read the survey results and conclude that MBA's are... well, a bunch of whiners. Why should MBA's be immune from the natural forces of the economy? You went to business school, and you got your education, and you got your network, now put them to use!

But as future MBA students, we pause a little as we think about spending $120K+ and forgoing 2 years of salary. Hmmm.... [dream sequence] that's a house with a garage and a nice yard (outside Silicon Valley at least). Or, if suburbia is not your style, that's enough for a Ferrari Marinello. Or, for you high flying investment bankers, that's 2 kilos of high quality cocaine.* Just think, you'd make managing director in 3 years with that kind of fuel!

Clearly, we have considered these opportunity costs. And, as an economist would say (if no one else), we are rational decision makers. And we've still chosen business school. But I think the last 2-3 years of economic uncertainty has taught us that we will have to work a bit. We may have a brand name school on our resume, we may drop a serious chunk of money on an education, and yes, Goldman and McKinsey may (and, statistically, most likely will) still show us the door.

In 2002, 76% of Wharton's graduates had jobs at graduation (higher if you count the 3 months following graduation). In a sour economy, I think those sound like pretty good odds. But there's certainly room for improvement. One of the chief reasons for Wharton's drop in BusinessWeek's recent rankings was student dissatisfaction with the placement office in 2002. The good news is that there appears to be hope on the horizon. Best of luck Mr. Degnan!

* Note: I don't really think that bankers do a lot of drugs. It's those management consultants who are the coke monkeys.

posted by Ryan : 10:41 PM | permalink

Sunday, June 15, 2003

 

The laptop decision

Well I finally bit the bullet and ordered a new laptop. It was between the Dell D600 and the IBM Thinkpad T40. They both strike me as great machines: thin, light (~5lbs), fast (1.6GHz Pentium M), big hard drives (60-80GB), and ready for wireless.

Ultimately, I decided on the IBM. I had one a few years back and was satisfied with the durability, size, keyboard, and eraser-like mouse pointer. Great batterly life too. Plus, it turned out to be cheaper than the Dell. The D600 loaded up with what I wanted was about $2300 via the Dell educational discount, and the equivalent T40 was only $1999 through the back-to-school sale (similarly equipped T40's go for about $3000 through discount retail channels). I'm a little disappointed that they don't offer a DVD burner option though. Seems like you'd expect that with a top-of-the-line notebook these days.

For the average user, this system would probably be overkill. I use my PC a lot for music, media, graphics, games, and so forth, so I figure it's worth the investment. My music collection alone will take up half the hard drive. Overall, I needed something reliable, high performance, and light weight. The T40 fit the bill.

Well, we all have to justify our purchases somehow. As one fellow admit remarked: "I thought business school would help me to be more financially astute. Instead, I am slowly going insane with debt. At least I'll be able to track that debt on a kicka** computer."

posted by Ryan : 11:46 PM | permalink
 

Being Dad

It's amazing how much my wife and I see ourselves in this baby's personality.

He fidgets a lot, gets impatient when things don't work right on the first attempt, and eats without utensils. Just like Dad! He also has a strong aversion to being constrained in any way, and he likes to think he's in charge. Just like Mom!

Watching this baby reminds me that life at it's most basic level is really a lot of fun. I mean, all this guy does is sleep, eat, poop, cry, and bob his head around. But I haven't smiled so much in ages! Perhaps there is something to be said for being easily amused.

posted by Ryan : 11:54 AM | permalink

Thursday, June 12, 2003

 

Christian Dale Miller

We are very excited to announce a new addition to the family. Christian Dale Miller was born Tuesday, June 10, 2003 at 4:44AM. Christian is a big guy: 9 pounds even! He's got big hands and feet and a full head of blonde hair. Mom and baby are doing fine and are getting a little much-needed rest. Dad is trying to be useful but usually just ends up staring at the baby. Check him out.

posted by Ryan : 12:49 AM | permalink

Friday, June 06, 2003

 

How admissions committees work

So much inquiry has been made into how the admissions process works at the top schools. But we usually get the standard responses, such as "It's more an art than a science." I gained some insight today as I read a concise (but plausible) theory: "The admissions committee throws all the application folders down a long stairway, and the students whose files travel farthest get admitted."

Thank goodness for 24-lb bond paper and heavy-duty staples.

posted by Ryan : 6:37 PM | permalink

Thursday, June 05, 2003

 

Tuesday may be the day

Well, today is Jennica's due day but Baby Boy Miller appears to be quite comfortable where he is, thank you very much. If he continues to stay put, he will come out with a little help from his friends. Induction is scheduled for Tuesday, June 10!

posted by Ryan : 4:33 PM | permalink
 

Filesharing and the RIAA

If you think the war on drugs is hopeless, take a look at the war on filesharing. The U.S. appeals court, at the request of the RIAA, ordered Verizon to reveal the names of "two customers suspected of illegally distributing hundreds of songs over the Internet." Hundreds of songs! Surely the filesharing networks will implode with the sudden vaccum of available files, now that those two bad apples are getting their comeuppance.

The record companies through the RIAA continue to anger their best customers. And the battle is a fruitless one.

Fortunately, there are a few companies out there actually trying to supply what the market is demanding.

A little tip for the RIAA: Millions of people have invested thousands of dollars on computer equipment, MP3 players, broadband connections, and CD burners. You might want to invest a little more heavily in figuring out how to sell the digital music. Apple sold 2 million songs in two weeks and they only opened their doors to 0.6% of the computer market (3% of computer users have Macs and only 20% of Mac users actually have the proper hardware/software requirements). You do the rest of the math. I'm going to bed!

(p.s. interesting insider details here and here about how the iTunes contract is set up)

posted by Ryan : 1:53 AM | permalink

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

 

The FCC


I'm sorry, but I'm not buying this right-wing conspiracy argument about the recent FCC ruling. The argument goes that the concentration of power in the media world is bad, stifles diversity, and ultimately drives us towards a controlled society. I dislike large corporations with the best of them, but I don't buy the doomsdayers' take on this.

We have already experienced media concentration, most of which has happened in the last 10 years. The net result of all of this media concentration has been an explosion in magazines, newspapers, bloggers, tv channels, etc., none of whom bow to a corporate partisan credo. Is it realistic to suggest that this explosion will entirely reverse itself, and that all we'll be left with is Viacom News and Fox News? Heaven forbid, but I just don't see it.

posted by Ryan : 3:24 PM | permalink
 

New Radiohead Album

Here are a couple of interesting perspectives on the new Radiohead album from Slate. I agree that Hail to the Thief is a better overall album than either Kid A or Amnesiac (it took me a few listens to come to that conclusion) and it proves they can still make great music.

posted by Ryan : 12:05 AM | permalink

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

 

Creativity

Reading a book on creativity right now. I thought this passage was intriguing:
You cannot assume the mantle of creativity just by assuming a certain personality style. One can be creative by living like a monk, or by burning the candle at both ends... are there then no traits that distinguish creative people? If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it would be complexity. By this I mean that they show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. Like the color white that includes all the hues in the spectrum, they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves.

These qualities are present in all of us, but usually we are trained to develop only one pole of the dialectic. We might grow up cultivating the aggressive, competitive side of our nature, and disdain or repress the nurturant, cooperative side. Having a complex personality means being able to express the full range of traits that are potentially present in the human repertoire but usually atrophy because we think that one or the other pole is "good," whereas the other extreme is "bad."

A complex personality does not imply neutrality, or the average. It is not some position at the midpoint between two poles. Rather it involves the ability to move from one extreme to the other as the occasion requires.


posted by Ryan : 11:36 PM | permalink
 

To Do List


"Are you ready?" is a question I hear a lot these days. Actually, the more pertinent question is "Is she ready?" Answering those questions is tricky if you're talking to a seasoned parent. They've been through it, and you haven't. Depending on my attitude, the conversation with the seasoned parent plays out in one of two ways:
Attitude 1 - Hubris

Seasoned Parent: "Are you ready?"
Me: "Yes, we are ready. We took a class and we bought granola bars for labor."
Seasoned Parent: "Scoff! jeer! guffaw! Bwwaahahahah!!!"

Attitude 2 - Anxiety

Seasoned Parent: "Are you ready?"
Me: "Gosh.... I don't know." (biting fingernails, circling floor with one foot).
Seasoned Parent: "Oh, you'll be all right. Just be sure and have some granola bars for labor."

But the reality is, I don't feel nervous about becoming a parent. It should be a snap, right?

posted by Ryan : 5:08 PM | permalink

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