20 posts categorized "Amazon"

Top three things I like about Amazon Prime Air

It's not the destination, it's the distribution.

Or so is my first thought after hearing Amazon's announcement of a projected service to deliver packages of 5 pounds or less via GPS-guided drone.


The drone delivering your package will sit at the bay door end of a conveyor belt in a warehouse fulfillment center.

11175309393_40b19f7895_zIn his interview on 60 Minutes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that 86% of all products (consumer products? products Amazon sells?) weigh 5 pounds or less. And he says transporting packages by drone, run on electric motors, is more energy efficient than shipping by truck.

(Quick algebra problem: how energy-efficient do drones have to be, for a fleet of them to use less energy then a truck carrying the same aggregate payload of 5 pound packages?)

Well, I like things that fly in the air for peaceful purposes.


And here are the top three things I like about the projected Amazon Prime Air service:

  1. Disintermediating bike messengers. Having retrieved your item from the drone-delivered weather-resistant tub, it should be simple enough to place something you would like to be delivered back into the tub, for another leg of the drone's journey. Maybe the drone's last sortie for the day would be a trip back to the fulfillment center with a return. But in between, the drone could be a private delivery and messenger service. If you can run AWS from your retail Amazon customer account, why not program your delivery drone from the same dashboard?
  2. The romance of typewriters, vinyl records, aeroplanes. A substantial portion of the magic is physical. Sure, it's an arm of the distribution network, which software and math are making efficient. But the mechanism for the last mile takes up and navigates space. A romance trains once had.
  3. Bartending faux pas redemption. Say you are poolside, making cocktails, but have forgotten to brandy cherries in advance? And your guests simply must have Men About Town? Pitted cherries, steeped in French cognac, on their way by drone in a flash.

Whole pay-stub

Stepping away from national policy on startup investing for today, Sunday, to consider some very local, Seattle-specific news.

Fascinating reporting and editorial commentary in the Seattle Times today about incumbent Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn facing down Whole Foods, as a way of shaking up and reinvigorating his prospects for re-election.

CaptureApparently, when a developer proposes a project that would have the City vacate a street or alleyway, that gives the City leverage, or additional leverage, to, in return, exact public benefits from the project. And the controversy McGinn has started is in saying, if Whole Foods wants to claim an alleyway in West Seattle to build a new grocery store, it needs to pay its non-unionized workers a fairer wage.

What draws me most to the story is the angle, threaded throughout the Times' coverage, that the Mayor or the City did not make similar wage or wage information demands on Amazon when that company was pursuing development that would also have the City vacate a street.

This from the main news story about the controversy in today's Seattle Times:

"[Other candidates for mayor] labeled as hypocritical McGinn singling out Whole Foods while not raising the same issue when granting recent street vacations to nonunion Amazon.com in South Lake Union."

I have to say, that is an absurdly out of touch comparison for other candidates to draw. I don't know what Amazon pays its food service workers, but the people I know who work there, they make very good salaries. And the boon to Seattle of having these knowledge workers in town, inside the city limits, rather than a godforsaken office park on the eastside . . . 

Don't get me started.

I say be liberal in giving Amazon alleyways. 

Amazon and Google spar over cloud services talent

While I've been distracted trying to catch up on the fight in California between Zynga and Kixeye over management talent, Amazon has brought a similar case in my own Seattle backyard. Amazon is seeking to hamper what a former AWS sales exec may do for Google.

Geekwire screenshotThe Amazon suit seems to have come to a head. Geekwire reported last week that the federal judge in the Amazon case has issued a preliminary injunction, an order restraining the ex-Amazon employee from soliciting Amazon customers.

Now that sounds like a win for Amazon, but it's not really. The judge limited the duration of the court's restriction to the length of a contractual restriction that Google itself put on the executive when Google hired him.

Geekwire's report put the Amazon case on my radar and Todd Bishop's policy of posting links to primary source documents gave me a chance to look at the judge's order.

Check out the guest post I wrote for Geekwire to sum up what I found. It's titled Legal lessons from Amazon’s ‘noncompete’ battle with Google and has just been posted.

Happy new year everyone! I am so thankful for your support, your engagement, your passion. JLM's exhortation in the thread on Saturday's post will be my motto for 2013!

DIY book reviews

The NYTimes reports that Amazon is changing out how it filters book reviews.

The changes seem to be directed at curbing reviews that are posted by family and friends. Amazon knows a lot about how people are related, broadly speaking. So I'll bet their new filters are effective.

1896_Review_of_Reviews_NY_v13_no77But some reviewers and those reviewed are upset to find previously posted reviews no longer on Amazon's site.

The objections ring hollow to me.

I'm not shy about suggesting that a private network can become so important to public discourse, it should be run as a public commons. For instance, I've advocated in the past that the Gates Foundation should buy Twitter and run it as a global utility.

But Amazon has always been a store and has always been understood as such. The social aspects of the site - telling you what you might like to buy - are all centered around making additional sales. That Amazon does so in a way that makes shopping easier, without seeming to "hard sell," speaks well of how the company strikes the balance.

Getting rid of shill reviews is likely a decision being made in the interest of keeping the right tone on the site and maximizing sales.

People who want to be sure to avoid the loss of their reviews should post them elsewhere.

The situation reminds me of something Eric Goldman said on his and Venkat Balasubramani's blog the other day: "There's only one way for users to truly control the fate of their online digital assets, and that's to host all of their content on their own website."

Some smart, influential people already post book reviews on their own website. Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and the aforementioned Gates Foundation, does this.

I post book reviews under the "books" category on this blog, and also on the system the Seattle Public Library uses. (Here's a sample, a thread on the new Ian McEwan novel, Sweet Tooth, which I also posted about, twice, on this blog.)

A problem, of course, with having reviews disaggregated across the web is that they can be hard to find. But this need not be that case, not for long. An interim solution might be some kind of River 2 aggregator, pulling RSS feeds of individual book review sites or pages from across the web.

Image: Wikimedia.

AWS marketing event

Monday night this week I went to an AWS meetup in the South Lake Union area.

My ability to navigate and make use of AWS is quite modest. I have a static website on S3 that I use as a personal profile. I also store pictures and serve up some JOBS Act materials and other documents from S3 (though, when it comes to documents I post for linking to from this blog, I often just use Dropbox).

But I want to learn to do more and "self provision" more. This Seattle restaurant list, inspired over the course of an M&A closing celebration dinner, is my latest modest effort.

All by way of saying that the specific information presented at the AWS meetup was beyond me. During the presentation I happened to sit next to a woman I know, an engineer versed in databases, and she understood everything. Part of the discussion was about making sure that the parallel instances you are running of your application are on servers located in different physical locations. She asked a question about pricing that revealed she had already been working with these features.

I'm still working on how to link different pages in a bucket to the index file!

There's a sense of community at these AWS events that I like. Not community in the sense of people who already know each other or live next-door to each other or work in the same building. Community in the sense of shared interest about the frontier of self empowerment.

AWS marketing event

AWS Senior Evangelist Jeff Barr presenting.

Taking Stock of Amazon

Gotta' admire the Seattle Times for the series they are running on Amazon this week.

Amazon - more so than Microsoft, Starbucks, or the Gates Foundation - is reshaping and energizing the physical infrastructure that is Seattle. Though a corporate no-show in local philanthropic life, the thousands it employs are working and circulating, not in God-forsaken eastside office parks, but in the city.

And the pressure of Amazon's future commitment to develop in downtown Seattle will inure to the benefit of the city's sidewalks, railines and restaurants.

SeattletimesbusadBut the Seattle Times, headquartered almost between Amazon's new development site on the north edge of downtown, and Amazon's existing South Lake Union campus, isn't playing hometown booster. It's pursuing Amazon with the kind of classic "accountability journalism" that is supposed to be dead.

One Times story in the series ran photos of an independent publisher in North Carolina, photos that in less than a thousand words signify how small houses dedicated to commodity print have absolutely no chance against Amazon's distributive might.

No doubt the Times itself well knows what it is like to see a business model disappear.

Amazon is roundly criticized in this Times article by publishers who complain about not having any voice to talk to or name to email, when it comes to confronting Amazon's unilateral changes in the discount it requires or in other policies.

No one on the receiving end of sharp news likes to feel anonymous. The publishers being squeezed are probably right to conclude that Amazon does not value them or find them important.

And yet, from a consumer's point of view, transacting with Amazon without human interaction is a plus. If there is one cultural value Amazon is known for and can celebrate as a core competency, it might be self-provisioning.

Here's an idea for publishers who part ways with Amazon and seek their own destiny: accept Amazon's core competence, and differentiate yourself by addressing what de-personalization doesn't.

On the way, get far more literate about how Amazon and web commerce work, technically. As you think of your authors as potential web services, as you find ways to personalize the relationships among your backlist, your authors, your readers, and the habits of reading and writing, you will need to network the pieces, digitally. (You might start using AWS, or its competitors.)

In a phrase, go the opposite direction: as Amazon relentlessly automates, use the tools of information distribution to personalize.

Photo by Oran Viriyincy / Flickr.

Messenger Service

When I started working in a Seattle law firm, 20 years ago now, old timers in corner offices would shout into their speaker phones, "shall I bucky that over to you?" They were referencing the name of a messenger service that, I think, was already out of business. But the name came to stand for the concept. To "bucky" something was to send it by any available same day messenger.  

For March 2 2012 postFlash forward to yesterday, when I remembered a gift that I had forgotten to order and meant to have on hand last night.  

Amazon had it. What's more, for $3.98, they would deliver it to me . . . same day.  

I think it took four hours. Not as fast as your fastest buckier back in the day, perhaps; but then Bucky didn't have to find the needle in the warehouse of inventory, either. Her package was sitting up front at reception.

One curiosity: the package return address (pictured) says Lexington, Kentucky. I took delivery in Seattle. That either out-bucky's Bucky, or the label ain't to be believed.

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