The Blog of Kendall

Observations and Interests of Kendall Schoenrock – Web 2.0, Startups, Technology, & Other Fun Stuff

October 19, 2007

Legos: Looking at the Blocks Through a Child’s Eyes

This was first posted at the Premium Turbos blog, but the site seems to be down so I’ve reposed the images here for your review. As someone who spent many hours building things with Legos this sure does bring back some good memories. I think they are great. What do you think? Do you recall seeing Legos in this way? Better yet, what do you think about this advertising campaign?

lego1.jpglego4.jpglego3.jpglego2.jpg

October 3, 2007

Think Differently

From Slashdot:

A couple of times a year, I pull up the following and read it, trying to realign my thinking process. I don’t know who originally wrote it; I’ve had it for years. I apologize for the long post, but it’s worth it.

Some time ago I received a call from a colleague. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score. The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.I read the examination question:

SHOW HOW IT IS POSSIBLE TO DETERMINE THE HEIGHT OF A TALL BUILDING WITH THE AID OF A BAROMETER.”

Precision Barometer The student had answered, “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.” The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly! On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this. I suggested that the student have another try. I gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on. In the next minute, he dashed off his answer which read:

“Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^^2, calculate the height of the building.”

At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit. While leaving my colleague’s office, I recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem, so I asked him what they were. “Well,” said the student, “there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building,and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building.” “Fine,” I said, “and others?” “Yes,” said the student, “there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.” “A very direct method, of course.”

If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building,in principle, can be calculated.” “On this same tact, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession”. “Finally,” he concluded, “there are many other ways of solving the problem. Probably the best,” he said, “is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: “Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer.” At this point, I asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think. The student was Neils Bohr.

September 23, 2007

The Ultimate Optimism

Katie Couric had the chance to sit down with Michael J. Fox to discuss his current situation, his stance on stem cell research and his general outlook on life as a person living with Parkinson’s disease. If you look though his shaking and convulsions, Michael has maintained a diplomatic, logical, and rational approach to his situation and the politics surrounding stem cell research. His ideas are delivered, with a side of frustration, with a dedication and empathy that is to be admired.

Katie was clever enough to ask a question about his public appearances with respect to the advancement of his disease and the decreasing impact of his medical treatment. His response, in my humble opinion, shows the ultimate optimism of any person.

“You get in your life, very few chances to make a difference. If these are the circumstances that make [change] possible, I am grateful for that. I am willing to throw vanity out the window.”

Here is the video:

Sympathy only goes so far. I hope that this inspires you to take action. I am going to write Sam Brownback again. I wrote him two years ago and I believe the situation is still the same. Click here to read my open letter to Sam. Click here to see his (crappy canned) response.

I hope that you do the same. Tell the people that speak on your behalf how you feel.

September 19, 2007

Shoeboxed.com: Company in Review

A week ago I was contacted by Alexandra de Oliveira, Chief Marketing Officer, for the Durham, North Carolina based startup company Shoeboxed.com. It was requested that I review this new startup company and I am honored to comply. Alexandra linked me up with Dan Englander, a Duke University young buck who’s taken the title of VP of Communications at Shoeboxed. I grilled him on a couple of occasions about the team, the technology, and what the heck they are trying to do. He was very helpful in answering my questions. Here is my review.

sbxlogo.gifShoeboxed.com is a startup founded by Duke students who are trying to shift the way users interact with online shopping and increasing organization of receipts, both digital and paper. After registering for an account at shoeboxed.com they give you a new email address that you can now use whenever you purchase something online. These online purchases get sucked into the shoeboxed system which then allows you to “digitally organize” any of your online purchases.

Based on their website and additional information collected, here are the value propositions, as pitched by Shoeboxed.com:

* Less Spam in your inbox
* Identity theft protection
* View, organize, record, analyze your purchase history

When you buy something online you’re now supposed to use your “@shoeboxed.com” email address. This is what helps reduce the spam in your inbox, secure your identity and allows you organize and review your receipts online. The system is smart enough to extract important information from the email interactions with online merchants. You can then log into your shoeboxed account to group all of your amazon.com digital receipts into one online shoebox for better organization. You can then create as many digital shoeboxes as your want. Make sure to take your OCD medication before you start. In the prefect world your inbox is clean, online identity further protected, and after a few tweaks in setting up digital shoeboxes one is ready to organize and study all the junk they buy online. Woohoo!

History:

Shoeboxed was started in late 2006 by students at Duke, and the team rapidly grew during the early months of 2007, and nearly 30 people work here currently.

The team is headed by Taylor Mingos and has secured funding from Michael Brehm who made bank with the German Facebook clone StudiVZ.net. There is a strong German connection to this group as apparently four members of the team speak fluent Deutsch and they decided it would be fun to cram a number of people into an apartment in Berlin for the summer. As far as strategy goes, I have to give them props for this move. It’s an excellent way to recruit bright talent from Duke for a summer internship abroad (probably without paying them very much for their work). This is the type of entrepreneurial bootstrapping that brings a smile to my face.

They also have a great passion about what their doing and I admire their ability to take risk and try something new. Kudos for the 24/7 help line. I’m sure this is pumped to someone’s cell phone. Hey, go buy that guy a beer. I published my cell number when I was at Wallhogs.com and I know what a pain this can be. This is great to see and makes me want to follow their progress in the future.

My praise for the company ends there. I’m confused by the pain points they are trying to solve and I’m tired of hearing the classic web2.0 business model of Advertisements and Partnerships. I don’t think the value add here is strong enough to go with a paid subscription model (nor has it been mentioned by anyone on their team.) I think they are missing a mantra and by pitching anti-spam, identity protection, and organization they dilute the real reason I think someone would use their technology; organization and analysis.

I played in the anti-spam world when I was at TurnTide, so I can speak with a limited amount of authority when I say that shoeboxed.com is not an anti-spam company and shouldn’t pitch it as such. The vast majority of people who are buying things online do not consider interaction with the merchant they just paid money to as spam. In all actuality, the purchaser desires email interaction with that firm and now that a relationship has been established future emails from that company enter into a gray area for spam classification. This could cause increase false positive classifications at shoeboxed.com in the future.

What if I want marketing emails from Orbitz? Ahh, here is the crux. Shoeboxed won’t block or trash these emails, instead a user has another inbox to sort through instead of their primary one. The idea that limiting your normal email address exposure by only buying online with a shoeboxed.com email address doesn’t hold water. Email addresses are meant to be used and there is stronger anti-spam technology on the market backed by lots more than 30 Duke Students (regardless of how smart they are). By using a shoeboxed.com address I am not reducing the amount of unwanted email I receive, I’m sorting it and I think this is fundamentally different than what they’re pitching. Perhaps I’m missing something here. The added value to me is not in their anti-spam, it’s in the ability to organize. Most likely a person will now have 2 spam buckets to sort through and new tweaking of white/black lists – ugh.

Identity theft protection: The shoeboxed team is making the claim that by using their issued email address your identity is now safer online. Guys, you’re not lifelock.com, don’t pitch this. If I’ve just made a purchase with a company, they most likely have my name, email, credit card info, credit card billing address (for verification) and perhaps a few other things that might be juicy to someone looking to steal my identity. If shoeboxed is making the point that it might be possible to buy something with only your name, email address and a PayPal account then perhaps they’re onto something for avid PayPal users. Their point is lost on me because 99% of my online purchases are made with a credit card and the merchant I’m giving my info to knows a lot more about me than just my name and email address (I have to pay them, remember?). Replacing that address with a shoeboxed.com address does little to protect my identity. I won’t even touch the topic that you guys are now holding some pretty sensitive data about my purchasing habits and what I do online.

The true reason someone would use shoeboxed? I think it’s the self discovery and organization built into their receipt tagging system. It might be very interesting to know that I spent $460.08 at Amazon and $2,590.75 on airfare. I know it’s a startup and there are a ton of smart people working for the company, but after my review I’m left scratching my head. Is this a big enough pain point in my life to want to redirect my email? Let me dig into mint.com and then we’ll see. Currently Shoeboxed is a free system and it’s something that I’m going to continue to look into, but overall I’m looking for a little more from a web2.0 company.

Talk to me guy, what am I missing? I openly invite Taylor, Dan, Alex, or anyone else at the big blue box to clarify anything that I’m missing here. I admire their spirit and hope my review doesn’t bring them down.

September 14, 2007

Why we won’t be out of Iraq anytime soon…

I have little desire in making this a political blog, but I wanted to tie together two interesting points that I’ve stumbled upon online. The first is a video of Republican Christopher Shays on C-Span in a moment of pure candor.

There has been a ton of pressure to bring the troops home and many Americans feel strongly about this subject. I would encourage everyone to think two or three steps ahead, like Shays does in this video, to what could possibly happen if we are no longer there…. and what this might lead to in terms of our future, our current addiction to oil, national security and empowering Iraq’s neighbors with the chance to possibly take over the worlds 2nd or 3rd largest supply of oil. Notice that I’ve not spoken a word about Terrorism. I believe the war in Iraq is due mostly to oil and not their link to WMD’s or their previous ability to aid and harbor terrorists.

Here is the world map of oil. The countries are represented in size by the amount of oil they are assumed to have. Please leave a comment with your thoughts on this subject. I am certainly not claiming to have all of the answers here.

map01_1024.jpg

September 11, 2007

9/11 Forward Focus [Repost]

World_Trade_Center_Sunrise_jpg

Tonight, MSNBC replayed the original news coverage “9/11 As it Happend.”  A rebroadcast of the events that happened this day six years ago.  I now sit in my apartment in New York City and my viewpoint on this subject has not changed.  Here is my take as of a year ago:

[Repost: 9/11 Forward Focus]

Where were you when it happened? As anyone from my parents generations can answer where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, my generation is able to recall without hesitation where they where when those who hate America, and the freedom it stands for, inexorably changed the world as we know it five years ago today. Has it really been that long? Have we made much improvement in our interaction with the world? From a personal perspective, have my actions, or lack of actions, helped or hindered our situation? There is obviously no easy answer or a simple solution to these problems. There is no magic pill that America can produce to instantly change the opinions of those who have successfully terrorized our country.

I encourage you to not forget the past but let us stand together and focus on the future. Where do we go from here? I would suggest that the focus should not only be outwards on the flaws in logic of our assailants, but to also undergo internal analysis. What fatal flaws are we making to cause others to hate us with such passion? It is easy to point the finger at our elected representatives and say, “You have failed us.” The deeper question I would ask is what else can we do now? Let us not avoid the correct solution because the solution might take too long or be too difficult. Let us not seek the quick patch job.

This will not be a war won with rifles and mortar shells, but rather by the unity of the mind. The battles will be over thoughts that promote religions freedom and a peaceful outlook preaching tolerance and acceptance. These are the same qualities that are the cornerstone of our countries foundation. I believe that we must also do a better job at listening. The world is telling us our actions may have led us down the incorrect path. I believe there are many things we can do better. Let us stand together and win the minds of those who disagree with us. Let’s accomplish this goal through open communication and by showing the world by our actions that we are not a country to be hated, but a country to be supported and embraced.

What can I do? I will continue to support our troops, our freedom, our way of life, but I will also openly question my elected officials and hope that increased awareness and participation can help to secure a better way of life for all.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”- John F. Kennedy

 

September 10, 2007

Update

I’ve been a little swamped recently, but I have a few good ideas for upcoming posts… so stay tuned. Also, I wanted to point out that today is a record breaking day for the number of my RSS subscribers! I now have 200 posted subscribers. Thank you to each and everyone of you who’ve picked up my feed. Check out my post on RSS and it’s flawless first impression over here. Be sure to check back soon as I have some great interviews and posts in the queue. I look forward to your feedback!

August 27, 2007

Wow… [enter blond joke here]

I wasn’t sure if I should post something like this or not, but I decided that it’s just too funny to pass up. You can tell that she starts talking before having a good answer. The more she talks the further she works herself away from a coherent answer. I’m sure (or I hope) she’s much smarter than this and she was probably just nervous.

August 20, 2007

Back on the Workout Wagon to Help Me Sleep Better

**offbeat post warning**

Like most, I am a creature of habit. Most of the time I am able to settle into a daily schedule that is healthy and productive, but over the past couple of months my world has been in a slight degree of chaos. When I moved to New York City I became overwhelmed by combination of interesting things to do, a long list of friends I’ve not seen in a while and a plethora of bars and excuses to drink. The move bucked my workout schedule and my sleep schedule as well, and cooking seemed like such a chore now.

After a three week vacation, and a liver that was starting to ache, I decided to swap out the bud light curls for some heavier weights that put my life insurance company at ease. It’s happened before so it wasn’t exactly a surprise, but my sleep patterns got better too. Like always, getting over the first couple of days is the most painful. Everything that once was easy is now difficult again and the soreness that once was a pleasant reminder of the nights successes is now somewhat debilitating. Some people are afraid of that pain and don’t know what causes it, but I’ve found plenty of sources online explaining how perfectly normal it is and why it happens. If you find yourself with that question just look at the site trello, it has a lot of information on not only that but the health benefits of exercising as well as getting regular sleep. Also if you are looking for new alimentary supplements you should try hormone replacement Scottsdale you are not only will feel stronger, but it is guaranteed that you will sleep like a baby encouraging the muscles of your body to increase to levels like the body-culturalist models

first_workout.jpg

Sticking with it is always the challenge, so I figured I’d share my trials and tribulations with you, my reader and by making it public I might find additional support and encouragement.. So talk to me! Are you currently working out? Are you having difficulties with sleep like I was? Are you lifting or running or both? What’s your favorite exercise or muscle group to hit? Leave a comment and let’s chat! Thanks for reading my off beat post! Cheers! 😉

August 14, 2007

Another Successful Schoenrock Exit!

Congratulations to my big bro Anderson Schoenrock on the sale of his real estate company to Jones Lang LaSalle.

Here is some additional information as reported by Bloomberg.

Zietsman’s founders, former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. executives Michael Zietsman and Anderson Schoenrock, arranged $1.2 billion in financing for five Texas office buildings owned by Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. Schoenrock also helped Beacon Capital Partners raise $910 million to buy Boston’s John Hancock Tower.

“This acquisition is in line with our growth strategy to gain a capital markets leadership position,” Earl Webb, chief executive officer of Jones Lang’s Capital Markets Group, said in a statement. “We believe this acquisition will accelerate that goal in our West Coast markets.”

Nice job!  Perhaps I should take a page from Josh Kopelman’s play book and send out a bottle of Dom.