Bad News for Travelers and Crowd-Sourcing 101
BY Kasey Wehrum
Airport screening company gets grounded. Monday night marked the end of Clear, the leading Registered Traveler program that allowed jet setters to jump to the front of security lines to the tune of $200 per year. Those who had bought into the service were left with no guidance, merely this message on the company's Web site, "Clear's parent company, Verified Identity Pass, Inc. has been unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations." Unfortunately, for avid business travelers, it looks like back to the end of the line for you.
Understanding viral culture. Six Apart VP and culture blogger Anil Dash joined a roundtable on memes and viral culture over at New York magazine and has the highlights on his blog. The folks at Blendtec (the company behind Will It Blend?) can speak to the power of an internet meme to boost sales. Ever thought your product might do well on YouTube? Take a look at roundtable participant Sam Anderson's theory of meme-making, including a graph that maps breakthrough viral videos in terms of where it lies of the spectrum of spontaneous to calculated and ironic to straight. Says Anderson, "We like pure attitudes: either total calculated mastery of the nature of viral media or total cluelessness—maximum media mind or the media-mind void. We want to be either very impressed with virtuoso performances (Susan Boyle) or we want to die laughing at clueless bungling ("Star Wars Kid").
Spring showers bring soggy profits. Wordsworth wrote, "Into each life, a little rain must fall." But this is getting ridiculous. Business owners in the Northeast have seen their profits get drenched from the seemingly endless barrage of rain that has fallen in the month of June. The weather not only played havoc upon the U.S Open golf championship in Long Island, New York, but it has been doing likewise with area businesses. The Boston Globe reports on businesses that have been hurt by the constant drizzle and how they are doing their best to fight back against Mother Nature. One café owner hired delivery boys to bring lunch orders to rain-shy workers while others have had to institute big sales to lure customers into their shops. Of course, there are companies who are cashing in on the silver lining of these storm clouds. Said the general manager of one Boston-area party tent rental company that has seen a 23 percent jump in orders, "I hope it rains every weekend for the next couple of months."
Microsoft will subsidize your iPhone. In a delicious turn of irony, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, online shoppers can get 35 percent off an Apple iPhone by purchasing it through Microsoft's Bing rebate system. Of course, the rebate will work with any phone sponsored by the system, but the added satisfaction of playing one company off the other makes the now-$65 (after rebate) iPhone 3G a noteworthy option. Bing director Whitney Burk told the P-I, "There are no restrictions on Bing cashback related to products that may compete with Microsoft products."
Lessons in crowd-sourcing. By the time the UK newspaper The Guardian got its hands on 2 million pages of documents about the country's biggest political scandal of the decade, its rival, the Telegraph, had already been on the trail for a month, churning out a string of riveting stories. The Guardian's strategy for catching up? Dump the public records on their site with a simple feedback interface, and then enlist more than 20,000 volunteers to mark which pages should be investigated. 170,000 pages were reviewed in the first 80 hours. The developer involved, Simon Willison, gives Harvard's Neiman Lab four pointers on crowdsourcing, starting with "your workers are unpaid, so make it fun." Willison made it feel like game. He put a progress bar with the number of pages reviewed and the number of pages to go on the project homepage, and a mugshot of each MP on their pages in the database. Says Willison, "You've got this big smiling face looking at you while you're digging through their expenses." For other tips, like "participation will come in one big burst, so have servers ready," read on.
The Paul Allen e-mail fix. What do you do when you're a billionaire software entrepreneur frustrated with your cluttered inbox? If you are Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, you use your investment company to launch a start-up charged with developing a fix. As the Seattle Times reports, Allen's new company, Xiant, is now offering a beta version of a Microsoft Outlook add-in called Filer at Xiant.com. The company says Xiant "can instantly help you more efficiently manage your e-mail." Filer will begin selling for $39 in about 60 days, according to the paper.
Intel and Nokia in cahoots. Intel is set to announce today the nature of its contract with Nokia. Bloomberg rumors the technology giant will be supplying chips for the company's mobile phones. Back in February, Intel buddied up with LG to develop another smartphone. Our office is already seeing a gentle rivalry between advocates of Pre and 3GS. Could Intel be adding to the mix with Nokia?
Is Steve Jobs' health a public matter? In a news release last Friday, the Apple co-founder and CEO touted the sales of the new iPhone but neglected to address the real question on everyone's mind: his health. Apple declined to comment on The Wall Street Journal's report of a liver transplant two months ago. Although securities regulations do not require updates on executives' health, some corporate-governance experts believe that Jobs' identity and importance in the company should place a greater responsibility on the company to maintain a transparency on Jobs' condition, so says the Chicago Tribune.
Staff editor KASEY WEHRUM has written for Inc. magazine on subjects ranging from the businesses behind professional bull riding to gadget inventor and father of the infomercial, Ron Popeil. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Worth, Budget Travel, and on MSNBC.com. He lives in Brooklyn.