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Monday, February 21, 2005

 

Cereal addiction


Last year it was cheesesteaks. This year it's cereal. Cereality to be specific. It's a small restaurant a block away from school that serves cereal. Cereal for breafast, cereal for lunch, cereal for dinner. And with any topping(s) you want. It's also a nice place to loiter, what with the free WiFi. My kind of place, and definitely worth a try if you're in Philly. Try this custom concoction: Frosted Flakes, bananas, coconut shavings, and honey. Pure bliss.

As an aside, I'm not sure how good a business model Cereality is. I'd bet the margins are decent as food goes, but I'm not sure if they'll get enough order volume to cover their overhead. Most fast food places make their money on fountain drinks, and no one gets drinks at this place. A Taco Bell in this location would probably make a lot more money per square foot.

Well, we all need to give back to the community in some way, so I've decided to make Cereality my charity case for the next semester. I'll help keep them afloat for another few months, out of the goodness of my heart. Feel free to stop in and say hi. I'm easy to find, just follow the slurping sounds.




posted by Ryan : 6:25 PM | permalink

Monday, February 07, 2005

 

My last semester, and best yet


So far this semester has been the best yet. This is not because "I'm outta here" in a few months. On the contrary, I wish I had another year of school. In fact, I hope the next 3 months feel like 3 years -- I'm not fit to go back to work. I've just finally figured out how to be a student. The reason this last semester has been so good is because, unlike my classmate Aileen, I don't attend my classes.... I just play guitar all day in a bathrobe while eating bowl after bowl of Honeycomb cereal. Just kidding, although that does sound like an ideal lifestyle. No, the real reason I'm enjoying this semester is that I have the best schedule of classes yet, and a light enough courseload that I can spend more time preparing per class. And not having recruiting or extracurriculars on my schedule frees up more time for family and friends.

In terms of classes, Siggelkow's strategy course has been the highlight. I'm a big fan of his teaching style. Why? Well, first of all, he's not easy to please. You can't rattle off an obvious answer in a discussion and expect to be let off the hook. You're not rewarded for taking guesses, and he is not afraid to tell you you're wrong before moving on to someone else. On the surface, this might sound like an absolute nighmare. But it raises the bar for class discussion significantly and the results are really satisfying. The second part of his teaching style that I really like is his devil's advocate posture. He often plays the dumb guy in the room... the naysayer...the pessimist... the cynic. It's all an act, of course, and everyone knows it, but the extra resistance really helps everyone focus on the most important points. The third aspect of his teaching that I like is somewhat reflective of the Michael Porter article, "What is Strategy?" which we recently read in class. In that article, Porter asserts that a key element of Strategy is "deciding what NOT to do." Siggelkow really calls out and focuses on the tradeoffs that companies make as they set their strategy. Unlike some case discussions, it's not a big feel-good free-for-all where every explanatory factor of a company's success goes on the blackboard. Deciding what not to do takes the fuzziness out of strategy just as deciding what not to talk about takes the fuzziness out of strategy class. It has been a good reminder: managers who are willing to make tradeoffs make better strategists.

posted by Ryan : 2:16 PM | permalink

Thursday, February 03, 2005

 

Yahoo Contextual search


Yahoo just debuted Y!Q, which is basically like the "search similar pages" feature on Google and Yahoo's search results, but available within a specific context. If you have a web site, you can add these contextual searches anywhere using some simple HTML code. Otherwise, users can download a beta toolbar to your browser (even Firefox, my browser of choice, is supported). Kind of nifty, and it will be interesting to see how people use it.

Personally, I don't think it resolves a very big pain point, especially for those that know how to use search. For example, if you're reading an article about the band "Kiss" and you want to search for their music without being inundated with irrelevant search results, couldn't you just add a couple of search terms like "band" or "buy CD's" or "discography"? In other words, can't you just make your search on Google.com contextual by adding a word or two? Seems to work for me...


posted by Ryan : 6:44 PM | permalink

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

 

Is anyone still using MSN?


Today, Microsoft finally released their non-beta MSN Search and Toolbar, and a beta version of Desktop Search. After doing a few searches on MSN Search, I'm much less happy with MSN's results than Google's or Yahoo's. And, unsurprisingly, there's nothing new or innovative in the Toolbar or Desktop Search that Google and Yahoo haven't already come out with. A release like this, accompanied by an underwhelming endorsement from Bill Gates makes you wonder what MSN is trying to accomplish here. Obviously this is not enough to get people to switch from Yahoo/Google to MSN. It seems more likely that they're just trying to stop the bleeding (hemoraging?) from their existing user base.

posted by Ryan : 11:09 AM | permalink

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