In re: Daily deals and the law

Interesting post over at TechCrunch discussing a number of legal issues touching on daily deals (and how they may be violating laws, especially consumer protection).  Like any area that is new and evolving its unclear what daily deals (Groupon, Living Social, Faveroo here in Columbus among others) are and you might be able to fit them under gift card laws, which the post at TechCrunch points out might put them at some odds with various state laws (Groupon does use some vague term language to hedge these issues, but they are setting up local merchants with some sticky issues).

I’ve been looking into issues like gift cards, bankruptcy, sales tax, and alcohol regulations. These might all sound esoteric and not really worthy of discussion, but the outcomes can significantly affect the value proposition to the consumer, merchant and the deal provider


What’s the correct sales tax on a $51 purchase with a $50 Groupon that someone bought for $25 in a state with a 5% tax rate? The possible answers are 5 cents, 68 cents, $1.30 and $2.55. That’s based on a taxable value of $1 (amount paid at point of sale), $13.50 (amount merchant actually gets), $26 (total amount consumer paid) and $51 (total face value of the transaction). I find that most businesses pick either extreme.

See TechCrunch

So while some of these might sound a bit bland to some, they could actually pose a whole host of issues to the rapidly expanding industry.  As someone who has missed the expiration on some of the deals I bought here, I wouldn’t mind having the longer date gift card laws often require, but of course these might cause companies to not want to get into the deals to start with.

In re: Google Autocomplete Redefines U.S. Map

“What happens if you let the notoriously fickle and sometimes downright dirty Google search autocomplete feature take over U.S. geography? A completely new State of the Union heavy on universities, history and other peculiarities, thats what.” via Google Autocomplete Redefines U.S. Map.

See the map and what happens when you let autocomplete fill in for each state in the US, kinda interesting at the link above to Gizmodo.

In re: The Sporkful makes waffles

Can’t say I normally watch any of the videos on Slate V, I always think they are going to be articles and when I realize that they are on Slate V, I click away.  But the other day I decided to watch a funny idea for a Wyclef Jean for president commercial.  Then somehow noticed some videos by the Sporkful, which I had never heard of, but became a fan of right away.  Check out the Sporkful podcast, blog and videos here.

And for a video on making waffles see here:

In re: Wolfram|Alpha – Google killer?


“Wolfram|Alphas long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.” (from Wolfram|Apha’s about page)

Is Wolfram|Alpha a Google killer? Well no, actually Wolfram|Alpha is seeking to do things differently as its not a search engine of the internet, but I would still think Google is worried because it is organizing information and making it more useful.  Google does a bit of this already, you can type in ” 2 + 2″ in the query box and get an answer from Google, rather than from another website.  This is the gist of Wolfram|Alpha, but taken to a much higher level.

While the site is brand new and still has a long road of improvement ahead of it, I see it as the future.  I know that is kinda a bold, stupid statement, but what it is capable of is a lot.  To back up, the difference between a Google search and what Wolfram|Alpha is attempting to do is that Wolfram|Alpha is presenting you the results, not leading you elsewhere and it is understanding the results based on understanding your answer, the more important part is it can manipulate the information.  This is the power.  Quick examples of this would be looking up the weather on the day Mark Twain died.  If you wanted to do this on a normal search engine you do two searches, first to find the date and then a historical weather search.  Not the case on W|A where you can treat the death of Mark Twain as the date input for the weather search (it actually doesn’t have the data on the weather in 1910 so it shows historical weather for the day of the year).  Normally though W|A will combine the two and get you the result.  Similarly it is useful to compare things, say how many golden gate bridges lengths = the height of mt everest (here) note you do need to use a syntax it understand even though you can use plain english.  Other interesting examples included comparing the GDPs of countries (it will create comparison graphs, show by year etc all on its own).

Essentially the power is that you are working with a vast array of information and you are able to manipulate it, this is crazy and exciting and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the science and math stuff that I am sure are useful to others, just over my head.  Check it out here, also check out their video that shows some of the things it can do, but just imagine this 10 years from now when it has grown and improved.  The reason I mention 10 years is because people just don’t get this thing right now (it is really really new of course) but it also doesn’t work well for a lot of people (see story here) and this author is quite right that right now its for science folks and geeks, but the idea is powerful and I predicate will gain traction and improve.

In re: Korean tacos & twitter

picture-21Yeah, you read the title right, the fusion of Korean BBQ Tacos (a fusion of its own) is big business when fused with twitter.  What do the two have to do with each other?  Well for the Kogi Korean BBQ Taco Truck in L.A. using Twitter to announce their next stop means that when they arrive there is already a big line of hungry customers.  Its an interesting story of how new technologies and old (the street vendor) can combine for something pretty amaz ing.  And don’t forget about the food, their tacos do sound really good.

See the story with a slideshow in a youtube version(I originally heard it on the World Technology Podcast) here, or checkout the Kogi’s blog here.

In re: MLB At Bat for iPhone does NBA too?

[Quick background, MLB At Bat is a program in its second year for the iPhone that now exists as a free ‘Lite’ version and a pay $9.99 full version.  The full version that I have allows detailed stats and scores for all games in real time (or close to) and additionally live audio for the games, often both home and away feeds.  The app is probably one of the most compelling paid apps for many of us and really is a ‘killer app’ one that could drive people (die hard baseball fans) to buy an iPhone regardless of other features.  Unfortunately other leagues haven’t followed or are tied to other carriers with exclusive deals.]

MLB At Bat does NBA broadcasts too?  Well it’s not supposed to, but while multitasking (watching the Cavs, doing some work, and keeping an ear on the Indians home opener that is in a rain delay with my iPhone and MLB At Bat) I came across an interesting instance of digital wires being crossed.  Not sure exactly how this happened but while listening to the Indians rain delay coverage using MLB At Bat (its crazy that for just $9.99 you can get this for the whole season -crazy good deal if your into baseball) my radio feed changed suddenly from hearing Indians fans calling into gripe about the Cleveland weather, the need to add a dome (likely), shorten the season (others strangely wanted to lengthen the season also likely), and all kinds of other rants the feed changed into the play by play of the NBA, namely Memphis v. Phoenix.

So while I had been impressed with the powers of this iPhone app already  its abilities to show me live stats and game casts, as well as live audio, now I am even more impressed, a two sport program, the Bo Jackson of applications, an amazing deal!  (Somehow they switched the feed from WTAM to some other station, either the MLB or WTAM the station up in Cleveland who has the Indians, but it was kinda strange to hear).

In re: Safari 4 Beta

Being into all things new I installed the beta of Safari 4 on my Mac, I had know of some of the changes, including massive improvements with Safari’s Java performance, among other under the improvements.  The UI also had some tweaks, probably most notably is the addition of Top Sites, a thumbnail view of your most visited sites, kinda like the quick dial some other browsers have had.  Also Apple has added cover flow for history and bookmarks, kinda useful, but I probably won’t be using it much, but lastly and at least for me the biggest adjustment comes from moving the tabs to the top of the screen.  If your using IE 6 or under a rock you don’t use tabs, but tabs were a huge improvement over the method of multiple windows.  The top of the screen is strange at first, and seems kinda inefficient going up to the top (unless your using keyboard tab switching) but I will admit I came across a good use of the tabs when I had a second window open in front I could still see my tabs behind in the second window and jump straight to the tab I clicked on when switching back.

I’ll be curious to see if all the negative press on the new tabs continues, I’ll give it sometime to see if I like it.  Other than those I’ve run into some problems with Safari, including problems loading HTTPS pages, including most importantly Gmail.  Of course those will be fixed before a release, but if your thinking of checking it out keep that in mind.