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  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:03 am on December 2, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , California, , , , HMS Beekeeper store, , , , , , , Webkinz, Webkinz Webcast   

    Entrepreneurship Heros I 

    To celebrate my 2 year anniversary of working for Fast Company and Inc magazines, I decided to write 2 posts about entrepreneurship. Here’s the first one.

    The owner of super awesome HMS Beekeeper store recently complained that people told her that she should close “because it’s ‘buy nothing day'”. I’m pretty sure that these people would have enjoyed my childhood in the Soviet Union, where most days were ‘buy nothing day’. Soviet Union was the kind of place where reporting your father to the secret police could make you a national hero, while engaging in business activity was a crime.

    I was brought up in an environment where 99% of non-governmental commercial activity was outright illegal, and the allowed kind was considered extremely unwholesome by association. Just about any item produced by the Soviet industry would be stamped with a price in order to discourage illegal arbitrage, like this condom, for example:

    These days outside of California it’s hard to imagine a society that considers this much commercial activity evil, but when I was a kid, any schoolchild caught engaging in commercial activity of any sort could get in a lot of trouble. Personal entrepreneurship was literally a criminal activity. This kind of an environment tended to produce excellent jet fighters, but pretty crummy condoms.

    In America entrepreneurs get a lot of respect (outside of government and hippie circles), and they tend to start early. You always read about the likes of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates having business ventures in high school and college.

    My former co-worker told me a story about his daughter who got into trouble for her entrepreneurial activities in 2nd grade. She and her friend decided to cash in on the popularity of Webkinz. They went into the business of selling hand-drawn counterfeit Webkinz trading cards. Surprisingly they were able to sell a good deal of those. The trouble came when the teachers noticed that they were engaged in market segmentation and variable pricing (which is a topic of one of my favorite Joel on Software articles). You see, the girls were selling cards at a discount to the popular kids and at inflated prices to unpopular ones.

    This episode only increases my dislike of schoolteachers. If I were in their place I would have praised the girls for entrepreneurship, and explained to them that it’s copyright infringement that is problematic, while market segmentation is perfectly kosher, even if a little sneaky. I’d teach them about premium vs generic branding and how some people happily pay a lot more for identical items in different packaging.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:39 am on October 10, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anthropologist, Article, Beverly Hills High School, , California, , , , Edmund 'Pat' Brown, , journalism teacher, Kenneth L. Peters, , Lead paragraph, Lede, Margaret Mead, Observation, , , Robert Maynard Hutchins, Sacramento, , ,   

    Burying the Lead 

    Every time I reread my blog posts, the same thought comes to my mind – “man, I buried the lead again”.

    I learned about leads from “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath. It is a short book, but one that influenced me deeply. Every blogger out there should read it.

    Burying a lead“, in the jargon of journalists means boring the reader before getting to the juicy part. A “lead” or “lede” is the first sentence of the story.

    In the book, there’s an anecdote about a journalism teacher giving his students an assignment:

    ” … They would write the lead of a newspaper story. The teacher reeled off the facts: “Kenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the entire school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Amnong the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college president Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown. ”

    Apparently, most students produced a lead that lumped all these facts into a single sentence. The teacher read all the submissions and then announced:

    “The lead to the story is ‘There will be no school next Thursday’ ”

    I am having a huge problem with writing in “inverted pyramid” style. The juicy parts of my posts are usually at the bottom.

    Think about it, most blog readers, especially the ones that matter suffer from add, and often do not get to the bottom of the article. This means they won’t link to it, won’t digg it.

    I am trying to improve, but writing is a difficult art to master. I just wish I took more writing classes.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:18 pm on September 18, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alaska, , California, Crispin Porter, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Democratic presidential hopeful, , designer for Sarah Palin's glasses, Economy of London, Guy John, John Edward, Kazuo Kawasaki, Los Angeles County, , , , presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, ,   

    I only play a doctor on TV 

    So, those magnum Jupiter brains at Crispin Porter + Bogusky managed to crap the bed with their Microsoft ads instead of making Microsoft cool. For some reason this made me remember these three factoids:

    According to Wikipedia, PC Guy John “PC” Hodgman is a Mac user, and Justin “Mac” Long is computer illiterate.

    Kazuo Kawasaki, the Japanese designer for Sarah Palin’s glasses, is grateful to the Republican vice presidential candidate for making his product famous, although he acknowledged he also likes Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama“. Palin’s frames without lenses cost as much as John Edward’s haircut.

    I’ve read somewhere that Norm Abram hates plaid shirts. A person who worked for the show told me that his shirts are mostly from Land’s End, by the way.

    I don’t know, I guess this is how my puny Pluto brain works…

     
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