Monday, January 26, 2009

Greasy Business

Link of the day - Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

Who said fat was bad for you? Vegawatt focuses on the upside of grease, turning restaurants' waste oil into electricity and hot water.

Vegawatt's refrigerator-sized units are incorporated into a building's existing system in the same way as a solar panel is retrofitted. After filtering a restaurant's used vegetable oil, the unit combusts the refined fuel in a diesel engine, feeding electricity and hot water straight into a restaurant's system. The units won't provide all the power and electricity that a business needs, but can significantly improve its carbon footprint and running costs, as a unit typically provides 10-25% of electricity requirements.

Leasing the system for five years costs USD 435 per month, with potential fuel savings calculated at USD 850 per month. Alternatively, the system can be purchased for USD 22,000 outright, paying for itself within three years, according to Vegawatt. And that's without taking governmental incentives and rebates into account. Businesses further benefit by not having to pay or arrange for used oil to be removed, and also receive credits towards LEED certification. Last but not least, there's the reputation boost gleaned from going green.

Vegawatt was developed by the Owl Power Company, a clean energy system company based in Massachusetts, and was launched this month. Planet-friendly, pocket-friendly, and good for PR... Time to put fries back on the menu? ;-)


Dumping Startbucks Can Be A Good Thing For Your Business

Don't Touch My Beer!

Easing Death's Sting While Turning A Profit

The Business Of Hats

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Link of the day - How Changed The Domain Game For Good

‘Democratic’ is a word few would use to describe Hollywood decisions, but Cowrite, a collaboratively written movie script, is here to change that. After two sentences that describe the mood and plot (‘Napoleon Dynamite’ meets ‘Pineapple Express’, starring an awkward teenager caught up in a dangerous conspiracy), the organisers put the public in the driving seat. Anyone is open to submit a 10-page portion of the script, provided they do not belong to the Writer’s Guild of America and have paid an entry fee of around USD 10.

The contest was announced in December 2008, with the opening ten pages to be selected by Cowrite’s judges and uploaded to its website for all to see by 29 January 2009. The story will build from there, with the judges selecting and uploading the best ten-page addition every fortnight over six months. Each of the 11 selected writers will receive USD 2,000 prize money, with USD 5,000 is reserved for the overall winner, who will also rewrite the first draft. Writers will also receive a share of the royalties should the movie go into production.

The project is the brainchild of Benderspink, the management and production company behind the 1999 flick American Pie. It’s shaping up to be an engaging project from start to finish, as fans wait for each fortnightly installment, passionately debate the changes made in the rewrite and spread the word to build hype before the film is released. The movie’s innovative creation process will certainly create press attention, which could make it more likely to succeed at pitch and (hopefully) the box office.

Given that everything these days can be written, designed and produced by your customers, providing affordable labour as well as die-hard fans, what aspects of your business could you relinquish control over?

P2P Camping

Profiting From Exotic Popcorn Flavors

Magic As Business

Weird Businesses - Lightning Photography

Demographic Winter: Decline of the Human Family

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Perk Management 2.0

Link of the day - The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Loyalty programs have been around for years—as evidenced by the mass of cards weighing down many consumers' wallets—but the difficulty of keeping track of them all can mean that consumers often don't reap the rewards they're entitled to. Enter Perkler, an Australian site that just entered beta for the sole purpose of helping consumers get what they deserve.

Perkler is an online community "for perks and people who love them," giving shoppers a central place online to manage all of their loyalty and rewards programs. Users begin by registering and setting up a virtual wallet to track all their cards. With a database of more than 500 programs and 150,000 rewards, Perkler brings the information about all of those cards together so shoppers can search all of them at once, even linking to specific retail locations so they know where to get each perk they're interested in. Community features let people share their thoughts and rate programs, making it easier also for users to find new programs they'd like to join. The site is free for consumers; rather, its business model depends on partnering with the owners of loyalty programs, offering aggregated data on customer behaviour, better targeting, a platform for advertising, and more touch-points for consumer interaction. Perkler plans to launch in the US and UK in early 2009; iPhone and Blackberry applications currently in development, meanwhile, will give users the ability to search for perks by geographic location.

This is the era of perkonomics, as our sister site would say. Consumers appreciate more than ever the convenience, status and plain old savings loyalty perks can afford, while brands get a way to differentiate themselves and show empathy during tough economic times. Facilitate the benefits on both sides, and you turn a win-win into a win-win-win!

Pee Farming

Leo Nordine - The King Of Foreclosures

Dumping Startbucks Can Be A Good Thing For Your Business

The junk boom: Profiting from foreclosures

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cash For Giftcards

Link of the day - The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need

Now that the holiday gift-giving season has come to an end, it's fairly certain there are many consumers around the world left holding gift cards they don't really want. Enter GiftCardRescue, a service that provides a way out by allowing users to exchange their unwanted cards either for different ones or for cash.

Consumers begin by creating an account and providing the details of the card they have; its value must be between USD 25 and USD 200. GiftCardRescue will then indicate the redemption value it's willing to pay—typically between 60 percent and 80 percent of the card's value. The consumer can then elect either to receive cash via PayPal, or they can select a new gift card from the site, up to the redemption value of their original card. Either way, they ship their card to GiftCardRescue, and the transaction concludes; if they've chosen to get a new card, that one is shipped out to them free. Maryland-based GiftCardRescue also sells gift cards at discounted prices.

As beleaguered consumers around the world try to recover from their holiday spending, you can bet more than a few will be weighing the value of the gifts they received more carefully than ever. Help them make those gifts more useful, and you could receive some nice rewards yourself! ;-)

Peter Schiff Talks About The Coming Economic Collapse In US (2006 Video In 8 Parts)

They Sell WHAT On Amazon.Com?

25 Weirdest Collections

Saturday, January 10, 2009

10 Books Are Just As Good As Freakonomics

Link of the day - I will pay you $25, if you come up with a cool domain name for me.

1. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

Why is it so difficult to sell a plummeting stock or end a doomed relationship? Why do we listen to advice just because it came from someone “important”? Why are we more likely to fall in love when there’s danger involved? In Sway, renowned organizational thinker Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Rom Brafman, answer all these questions and more.

Sway introduces us to the Harvard Business School professor who got his students to pay $204 for a $20 bill, the head of airline safety whose disregard for his years of training led to the transformation of an entire industry, and the football coach who turned conventional strategy on its head to lead his team to victory. We also learn the curse of the NBA draft, discover why interviews are a terrible way to gauge future job performance, and go inside a session with the Supreme Court to see how the world’s most powerful justices avoid the dangers of group dynamics.

2. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

What Ariely has done here is shift a lot of the thinking developed by such pioneers as Kahneman & Tversky who worked in behavioural economics, and moved it into the everyday sphere. And he’s done a great, insightful job. Where the behavioural economists are focused on financial decisions (why we buy high and sell low - and confound the assumptions of the classic economists who assume ‘the rational man,) Ariely eschews the technical language and walks us through everyday examples of our often fuzzy and quite irrational decision-making.

3. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

I think “Paradox of Choice” does bring insight into shopping, but its range is actually much wider than that. Schwartz discusses people making difficult decisions about jobs, families, where to live, whether to have children, how to spend recreational time, choosing colleges, etc. He talks about why making these decisions today is much harder than it was 30 years ago, and he offers many practical suggestions for how to address decision-making so that it creates less stress and more happiness. He even discusses how so much additional choice affects children, and how parents can help make childhood (particularly young childhood) less stressful.

4. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

“Buy on apples, sell on cheese” is an old proverb among wine merchants. Taking a bite of an apple before tasting wine makes it easier to detect flaws in the wine, and the buyer who does so will not as easily make the mistake of paying more than the wine is worth. Cheese, on the other hand, pairs well with wine and enhances its flavor, so a seller who offers cheese may command a higher price for the wine (and may even deserve it, if the wine is intended to be drunk with cheese). The proverb captures important psychological nuances of choice. The same product - a bottle of wine or a risky medical procedure - may be perceived differently depending on its context, and it is often possible to arrange the context to influence a choice while still maintaining the decision maker’s autonomy.

5. Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

Richard Wiseman is an experimental psychologist and professor of “public understanding of psychology.” In this book, he discusses dozens of experiments performed by himself and other psychologists around the world over the course of the last hundred years. All these experiments have in common is unusual research methodology or amusing results.

Topics include studies of personal ads and pickup lines, determining which are most effective, how to detect liars, manifestations of prejudice and hypocrisy (are religious people or priests more honest or generous than others? it has been tested). Wiseman even ran tests to see which experiments in the book are the most interesting, to help the reader know what would be the best conversation starters at parties.

6. Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

Clinical psychologist Van Hecke has compiled a list of 10 mental glitches that have infiltrated contemporary society, afflicting even the smartest among us, limiting thought, success and relationships. Van Hecke devotes a chapter to each blind spot, including “Not stopping to think,” “Not noticing,” “Jumping to conclusions” and “Missing the big picture.” Examining each in detail, Van Hecke details the root causes of these unconscious habits (”information overload,” “our tendency to habituate”) and tactics for overcoming them, using humorous anecdotes and other real-life examples to drive her points; the key is remaining open to new ideas and taking a step back from our busy lives in order to process information, situations and people. Filling in “the big picture” herself, Van Hecke demonstrates how embracing and understanding our weaknesses can not only improve personal and professional relationships, but also entire communities; this self-help is a welcome, highly readable first step.

7. Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind

In “Kluge,” psychologist Gary Marcus looks to the many and varied foibles, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies of the human mind and concludes that our brains are not, in fact, models of brilliance and efficiency, but are rather cobbled-together systems, designed for one purpose and pressed into action for another - the classic definition of a kluge.

The most famous kluge is probably the case of the carbon scrubbers on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. Crunched for time, engineers managed to create a system out of duct tape and socks (seriously) that worked adequately enough to clean the air on the space module- even though none of the materials they used were designed for, or optimal for, the job at hand. The result was ugly and inefficient - but it kept the astronauts alive. Likewise, Marcus argues, evolution has endowed humans with a hodgepodge of genetic material - the DNA equivalent of duct tape - with which to build all the sophisticated systems that supposedly set us apart from other creatures, like language, memory, and reason. The result is, for example in the case of language, “a vocal apparatus more byzantine than a bagpipe made up entirely of pipe cleaners and cardboard dowels.”

8. The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

The author writes to the layman, making the language of statistics, probability, randomness a fascinating read. It’s clear that he’s well aware of the fallacies and delusions (and consequent harm) to which most of us are easy prey. But he leaves it to the reader to draw any philosophical-theological inferences about the need for greater humility. His immediate goal is to help the reader understand the distinction between 1. the “common-sense” logic employed by self-serving finite beings coping with problems in the material world and 2. a “scientific method” that takes nothing for granted in a universe of perpetual flux. More miraculous than either the accomplishments of the romantic hero or the intercessions of a supreme being (everyday stuff for most of us) is the rare discovery that two things (or “events” in the spatial-temporal order) suspected of being connected (a hypothesis) in fact cannot be shown “not” to have such a relationship (the proof).

9. Guesstimation: Solving the World’s Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin

Somehow, guessing at numbers is unsettling, even though I’ve done it all my life. John Adam is a professor of applied mathematics, with a degree in physics. Larry Weinstein is a nuclear physicist. Their book is devoted to proving that intelligent guessing is useful and fun. The book lays out some general principles but its great strength lies in the interesting problems, a series of hints to help you solve each problem, and an interesting discussion of the pitfalls and triumphs involved.

10. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Cialdini believes that influence is a science. This idea attracted me. As a rhetorician, I have always thought of persuasion as more of an art. Cialdini, however, makes a first-rate case for the science point of view. But maybe most importantly, he makes his case in a well-written, intelligent, and entertaining manner. Not only is this an important book to read, it is a fun book to read too.

He introduces you to six principles of ethical persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. A chapter is devoted to each and you quickly see why Cialdini looks at influence as a science. Each principle is backed by social scientific testing and restesting. Each chapter is also filled with interesting examples that help you see how each principle can be applied. By the end of the book, I had little doubt that these are six important dimensions of human interaction.

More curious stuff:

Einstein's Biggest Blunder

Blood Diamonds Documentary


Friday, January 09, 2009

The Business Of Pet Wills

Link of the day - Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

A Missoula-based Internet company recently launched "Pet Living Wills" as a way to protect your favorite dog, cat or goldfish when you are not there.

If you could speak on behalf of your pets, what would you say is a question MaryEllen Campbell asked when a horse she was watching for a friend came down very sick and a choice needed to be made

"So we called and Called and couldn't get anyone, and so we had to make some pretty important decisions life or death about whether to put down a horse" said Campbell. "I didn't really expect that emotional problem I would have trying to decide on someone's pet."

The incident lead her to become a co-founder of Pet Living Wills, "It occurred to be how we have living wills maybe because pets cant talk and speak for themselves we need to have something that will speak for them."

Boarded animals or animals left with a caregiver often don't have the proper instructions in case of a pet emergency, which co-founder David Firth says can lead to some tough choices.

"Most people just don't assume that any thing is going to happen and that's why people have car insurance, because you don't assume your going to have a crash but that may just happen someday."

The idea is the first of its kind, and after a three year process, the Internet business went public just last week.

A New Way To Sell A Book

How To Be A Successful Blogger Mom

PickyDomains.Com Reviewed By John Chow

What's in a domain name? Serious money

Domain king's rivers of gold

Monday, January 05, 2009

A $12 million boost from savvy marketing

Link of the day - How Changed The Domain Game For Good

The cuisine he sells isn't exactly what he grew up eating in his native Paris, but Philip Schram knows he can add panache to anything he peddles. After he launched a new marketing campaign for his Cincinnati-based restaurant chain, Buffalo Wings & Rings, sales jumped from $8 million in 2006 to $20 million in 2007.

Schram, 44, worked in France until his employer, auto-parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen, transferred him to Cincinnati in 2000. "Ever since I was a young boy, I dreamed of owning a business," he says. When he heard that a co-worker's father was planning to sell an underperforming chicken wings and onion rings franchise, Schram saw opportunity and bought the six-restaurant chain in 2005.

To boost foot traffic immediately, Schram insisted that franchisees spend about 3% of their sales on neighborhood advertising such as direct mailings and flyers. Then he tackled the bigger problem: "Each shop looked completely different. There was no branding," he says. So he hired a design firm to create an appealing look for the stores, which includes galvanized-sheet-metal furnishings and a green, red and yellow palate. He also introduced more menu options.

As revenues grew in 2007, Schram opened 13 new locations, bringing the total to 43. He expects to open about 25 Midwest restaurants by the end of 2008. Schram also landed a deal with a Korean restaurant supplier to open locations on U.S. Army bases in Kuwait, selling wings, onion rings and a distinctly American image to soldiers abroad.

Explosive success: Loveland entrepreneur's iFartMobile is top-selling iPhone app

World’s Smallest Postal Service

Profiting From Exotic Popcorn Flavors

Friday, January 02, 2009

Explosive success: Loveland entrepreneur's iFartMobile is top-selling iPhone app

Link of the day - Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

Loveland author and entrepreneur Joel Comm has added a hint of hilarity to this holiday season and likely ensured many iPhone owners will no longer endure Silent Nights, thanks to his newest iPhone application.

Comm announced this morning via Twitter that his iPhone application — iFart Mobile — is the No. 1 paid application at the iPhone store. It sells for 99 cents.

“Yep. We’re No. 1,” Comm said during a telephone interview with

Created after members of the executive team at Comm’s Infomedia Inc. brainstormed new and different applications for the popular iPhone, iFart Mobile features a variety of digital sounds sure to bring smiles to the faces of teenage boys and uncertain girls around the world.

With names like Jack the Ripper, The Wipe out, and Howard the Duck, the application offers a true symphony of sounds. Already there are plans for upgrades to the application to include the Sneak Attack or Fart a Friend options.

“Our executive team is largely male and we just sat around brainstorming the idea,” Comm said. “This is one of those ideas where we were laughing so hard as we talked about it, we knew we had a hit.”

Other Weird Biz Stories:

How Two Tech Guys Created A Viral Food Sensation

Pee Farming

Leo Nordine - The King Of Foreclosures

Don't Touch My Beer!