Wine
I recently hosted a get-together where I encouraged everyone to bring a bottle of wine to share. The Bring-Your-Own-Wine theme was partially so guests could enjoy a variety of wines, but mostly as my own personal data-collection sham, poorly disguised as a social experiment (kind of like our beloved Facebook – zing!).

Upon arriving, my classy guests were asked to write down the taste, smell and look of each wine on a scale from 1 to 10, making 30 the best rating possible.  The result was 243 data points from 15 raters across 14 wines.  Despite a relatively small sample size, I set out to analyze the wine ratings (geek alert!) to learn if the data could give any insights.

Observations:
  1. A Port blend scored the highest at 23.8
  2. Winning wines were older
  3. Wine "look" scored higher than "smell" or"taste"
Insights:
  1. Consider Port more often
  2. “A fine wine gets better with age” :)
  3. We should just look at wine instead of drinking it (ha!)

Here's a summary by wine:
Here's a summary by rater and characteristic:
Here's the raw data if you'd like to geek out for yourself:
winetastingdataclean.xlsx
File Size: 12 kb
File Type: xlsx
Download File

In closing, if you run a wine tasting competition of your own – and I highly recommend that you do, it’s a lot of fun – I would suggest that you ask for fewer data points for each wine in order to increase your conversion rate.  About 10 guests refused to write anything down at all, with (absurd) objections like "I just want to drink wine!”  If you choose to pursue wine ratings online – here’s your FREE website idea: "Yelp for Wine" – one overall rating like a score from 1 to 10 would probably be best.  Cheers!

 
 
I really wanted to own an Android.  After going straight from flip-phone to the iPhone 3G, I eventually upgraded to an iPhone 4S.  When I needed to get a new phone a couple of weeks ago, I went with a Samsung Galaxy S2 but ended up returning it in favor of another trusty iPhone 4S just 12 days later.

Getting up to Speed on Android

I picked Sprint's Samsung Galaxy S2 (Epic 4G Touch) since I could save money on a family plan on Sprint, enjoy true 4G data speed with the Galaxy S2, and finally weigh in on the iPhone versus Droid debate as someone with experience owning both.  The Sprint salesperson made clear that the Galaxy S2 was the Droid with the lowest return rate and best overall performance, which made it the obvious choice for someone who uses a smartphone heavily.  As an app fanatic, I was pleasantly surprised to find most of my favorite iOS apps already available on Google Play -- 35 out of 36, to be exact, with Liftopia being the only one missing.  While I was sad to miss out on the latest and greatest apps that consistently come out first on iOS -- take CarrierCompare as one good example -- I was satisfied with the overall Android app ecosystem.  Instafetch worked pretty well with my existing Instapaper Pro account and I eventually shelled out $2.99 for iSyncr after spending over an hour trying to get my music on my SD card for free with the built in Wi-Fi Kies program (failed), Winamp (failed), and good old drag and drop (no playlists).  iSyncr successfully ported all my music from my computer to my SD card fairly easily, it let me transfer existing iTunes playlists, and it even let me control my music from the phone's "lock screen" after I installed the companion "Rocket Music Player."  While the lock screen control was a nice and unexpected touch, and iSyncr was well worth $2.99, I can't help but note that there was something uncomfortable about paying for an app that is explicitly trying to recreate the native iPhone music playing experience.  Can't Android phones just have awesome music integration by default?

Trouble Brewing

I enjoyed getting used to Swype but found that I just couldn't get my overall speed anywhere close to what I had achieved on my iPhone keyboard.  Even one tiny slip up on any word longer than five or six letters required the whole thing to be typed all over again.  I recognize that 1 or 2 weeks may not have been a long enough learning period, and that I probably would have tried different keyboards eventually, but I wasn't typing as quickly as I would have liked using the default keyboard.  I also started experiencing serious phone slowdown, which reminded me of the days when I was using my iPhone 3G when it was 3 years old.  When I tapped buttons or opened programs I frequently had to wait several seconds for the phone to respond, which virtually never happened on my fast-as-[censored] iPhone 4S.  When I realized that installing and running several different programs may have contributed to this slowdown, I had to learn how to kill background programs on Droid, something I never worried about on my iPhone.  I was disappointed to learn that several apps that I had never even launched were running in the background, and even when I manually killed them, they somehow reopened themselves!  AirBnB, I love you, but I'm not sure why your Android app needs to always be running.  I uninstalled a few memory offenders and eventually got rid of Lookout entirely, which seemed to help speed things back up.  However, 40 apps wasn't even half of how many I had had on my iPhone, so I was beginning to get concerned about how it would perform as I ramp up apps and usage over time.

A Critical Bug

I was really looking forward to the native Google Maps Navigator on Android.  I had heard great things about it and can confirm the rumors to be true.  When a Droid runs Navigator, it is fantastic.  For the first time ever, I had a phone that not only played music on my car speakers, but it gracefully faded music out to give me voice commands of when and where I should be turning!  The dealbreaker was that the GPS was buggy.  It's one thing for a GPS to take a few moments to calibrate, it's another to have an occasional bad data connection let maps load slowly or not at all.  Unfortunately, what my Samsung Galaxy S2 did was much worse.  I would often go hours at a time without having the benefit of GPS working at all.  No wonder I was having such a hard time checking in on Foursquare in places that don't have Wi-Fi.  This was an unacceptable functionality deficiency for a smartphone that led me back to a Sprint store within my 14 day return window.  Despite being sold on the Galaxy S2 as the best Droid Sprint has to offer, I would have had to tolerate inconsistent GPS to stay with the Samsung Galaxy S2.  Sorry Samsung, but you can't call it a smartphone if it doesn't offer consistent GPS functionality.  I was sad to have to get a new phone, especially since I was starting to get some serious mileage out of people seeing the oversize Galaxy S2 screen and proclaiming "that thing is giant!"  Yes, dear reader, "that's what she said."

Navigating the Minefield

If I were to buy another Android, I'd enjoy deep Google Apps integration, real 4G data speeds, and the ability to add 32GB of memory by popping in a $20 SanDisk SD card as opposed to paying $200 to Apple to go from 16GB to 64GB on an iPhone.  In the end I couldn't bring myself to buy another Android phone.  I had had a Sprint salesperson tell me that the Galaxy S2 had the lowest return rate and best performance out of all available Droids, but then I had a bad experience.  I had had a Sprint manager disagree with me over my comment that my phone was not working properly when he argued that "the Samsung Galaxy S2 does work properly, just not the GPS."  I had an Android owner who has never owned an iPhone tell me that I had brought this problem on to myself since I had not done deep enough research on that specific Android model.  If I'm supposed to take for granted that the Android ecosystem is a minefield where you can't trust the best phone in the store, I'm left with no choice but to go back to Apple.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch versus iPhone 4S: Declaring a Winner

My iPhone 4S does many things better than my Samsung Galaxy S2 did in its 12 day chance to win me over.  I have a new appreciation for the iPhone's design, simplicity, ease of use, and detailed attention to user experience.  As one key example, I sorely missed the iPhone's integrated headphone controls, and I'm glad to have them back.  When it comes to the iPhone, "it just works," and it does so exceptionally well.  That's something I'm willing to pay for.

Follow me @AdamStober (don't be afraid, say "hi").
 
 
Picture
I'm thrilled to be joining the Marketing team at Fiksu after an action-packed run with Client Development.  The questions I've been getting about the transition, while natural, seem to barely scratch the surface about what’s going on:
  • Is this a promotion? Yes.
  • What's the new title? Marketing Manager.
  • More pay? No comment :)
For those unfamiliar with Fiksu, we provide the most cost-effective way for Android, iPhone, and iPad developers to acquire mobile app users through paid advertising.  

Inspired by Chicago Booth success stories like Bump, Benchprep, and Power2Switch, I came back to Boston looking for startups.  While I didn’t know exactly how my role would develop when I first joined Fiksu, I took a leap of faith since I saw an opportunity to have a meaningful impact on a high-growth business, work directly with management, and contribute to a key player in a dynamic new industry.   I also knew that working at Fiksu would quench my thirst for buzzwords: a “mobile app marketing startup” lets me say 4 in a row.

I’m looking forward to becoming Fiksu’s technical liaison to the sales team and spending more time devoted to the following functions as part of my new role.  I can imagine that my initiative in stepping outside my defined responsibilities as a member of Client Development helped to precipitate the shift:
  • Marketing: I acquired the @Fiksu Twitter handle from a non-active Twitter user just hours before our official transition from Fluent Mobile (we rebranded in April).  Every time I see Fiksu tweet I like to think I played a little part in saving my company from a branding disaster like Qwikster.
  • Sales Collateral: I initiated the creation of our mobile banner ad best practices PDF alongside designer Steve Zimmerman.  I can only imagine how many times this has come in handy already.
  • Sales Operations: I helped configure Salesforce to automate notifications of new client signings across the organization and I bring some experience doing similar sales-enablement work at GradeBeam.com, which recently got acquired.  I’m betting Jess Hasenplaugh is hoping I’ll prove to be the same kind of good luck charm for Fiksu :)
  • Sales Proposals: I worked alongside my tireless client performance counterpart (and fellow Tufts Jumbo) Eric Garcia to formulate a proposal so detailed that one VP compared it to something the client might have been lucky to get had they hired Bain management consultants at the same time as they hired us.  I consider this one of the greatest professional compliments I’ve received to date.
I’m obviously pretty excited to be contributing to one of the hottest startups in Boston and to start applying my writing and background in data analytics towards Fiksu’s marketing efforts.

If you’ve read this far, you should feel free to get in touch by emailing adam@adamstober.com to learn more about Fiksu or if you just want to talk about startups, mobile apps, or new web services.  I can offer business model feedback and I’ll take almost any opportunity to chat with software engineers, product managers and web designers.  You can ask Alex Kalish, Carla Pellicano or @SethWynne respectively if you have any doubts about that.

Special thanks to Craig Palli, Jo Wightman, and Viki Zabala for everything so far, and a final thank you to Ram Parameswaran for the introduction from Charles River Ventures.   Fiksu has been a ton of fun so far and I’m eager for the next challenges alongside an incredibly talented team.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @AdamStober –say “hi” when you do!

-Adam


Bonus blurb

For those who care to read even more about this Fiksu-er’s forays into other functions while a member of Client Development.  In an early-stage venture-backed startup, there are opportunities to lend a hand towards a broad range of functional departments:
  • Creative Services:  When an early client’s unwillingness to create their own banner ads became a bottleneck for running ad campaigns, I initiated Fiksu's banner ad design services to better serve app advertisers who prefer to have Fiksu create mobile-optimized banner ads for them.
  • Human Resources: Interviews, interviews, interviews.  I usually conduct several every month (Yes, Fiksu has open job listings, check them out, or just email me).
  • Operations: I persisted in advocating for Basecamp to help manage collaboration during the always-hectic campaign launch process, saving Fiksu roughly $20k per year relative to the presumed and less appropriate alternative, expanding the use of Salesforce.
  • Training: I started Client Development’s “Training Tuesday” series that has spanned 14+ sessions as we scaled the team from 6 people to 20.
  • Recruiting:  I supported Greater Boston Hockey teammate Curt Wells in his bid to redirect his relentless energy, risk-taking attitude and big picture thinking away from professional poker and towards our budding field of mobile app marketing.  The result has been a devoted client manager and the enthusiastic engine of an initiative that has the potential to change the way iPhone & iPod Touch users get paid apps.  As your reward for finishing the bonus blurb, I’ll leave a tip.  Follow @FreeMyApps for breaking news and an “apptastic” surprise in the near future.  You'll be glad you did.

 
 
University rankings are helpful for uninformed people to quickly gauge a school's general quality.  That said, it has always frustrated me that these rankings, like a student's SAT score, are simply taken too seriously, and that readers often disregard a ranking's source.  Just two days ago, I questioned if school rankings were like lotteries then asserted so over on Twitter.  If a reputable publication like US News, which has been ranking colleges since 1983, lists 11 schools as the best in any given area, it is likely that these 11 schools all have strong programs.  However, it is unfortunate that readers may come to believe that school #3 is somehow "superior" to school #6.  Assuming this reader perception holds, Universities have an incentive to constantly review rankings from sources of varying editorial quality and publicize whichever ones are most favorable.

This dynamic creates a tempting opportunity for publications to create rankings even if they have little or no expertise conducting surveys or rankings in the first place.  One organization that tactfully takes advantage of this phenomena is the Princeton Review.  The Princeton Review's Best 373 Colleges ranking also includes 62 mini-lists including such informative gems like "Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution" and "Don't Inhale."  The Princeton Review's ranking services provide relevant and effective marketing for their core business, test preparation, even if the rankings are not always the most scientific. 

This brings me to yesterday, when I first heard of the Daily Beast, which claims to "carefully curate the web’s most essential stories and bring you original must-reads from our talented contributors."  The Daily Beast published its Second Annual "50 most dangerous colleges" ranking last week and lists Tufts University as the #1 most dangerous college in America.  Anyone who has ever even heard of Tufts knows this is a ridiculous claim by almost any measure, objective or otherwise.  "The Daily Beast has listed Boston as the home of Tufts, which is where Tufts Medical School buildings are located, but that site is nevertheless removed from the school's main campus in the Boston suburb of Medford."  According to Tufts University's Public Relations Director Kim Thuler, the school reports not only campus crime, but area crime from local police and information from their clinics, which inflates their numbers and does not give a fair picture of safety on campus...  The murder included in Tufts report occurred off campus, in downtown Boston and did not involve any Tufts students or staff.  So if I follow the Daily Beast's logic correctly, Tufts University is "the #1 most dangerous college in America" because the proportion of crime near one of its graduate campuses in a major metropolitan area (Boston) divided by the number of students at a mostly suburban college (in Medford, 6 miles away) is the highest among 458 colleges the Daily Beast chose to rank.  As a Tufts graduate, I have been taught to think more critically than that.

By analyzing the Daily Beast's "dangerous college ranking", I have systematically broken down how you too can self-promote, both shamelessly and effectively, in 3 easy steps:
  1. Create a ranking that is controversial or unique.  Ideally the topic of the ranking is related to your own core business and includes a number and a superlative in the title (Might I suggest "7 Smartest Guinea Pigs in North Carolina" for a local PetSmart branch?).  This provokes an emotional response for affected readers, although I doubt it is relevant whether the emotion is positive or negative--it simply has to be strong.
  2. Explain why you should be treated with authority as a source.  Ideally this involves detailing an objective statistical methodology and being transparent about any subjective opinions that enter into the analysis.
  3. Publish online and harness social media like Facebook and Twitter.
The Daily Beast succeeded in creating a viral marketing campaign... for whatever it is they do.  If the Daily Beast's goal was publicity and their credibility is considered unimportant, I will provide two suggestions for next year's "dangerous colleges" ranking:  1.  Create a better methodology, or don't disclose the details behind your illogical rationale.  Being transparent with such a weak methodology makes you look ignorant.  At the very least, it's clear you didn't go to Tufts.  2.  Choose a #1 school that is bigger or more prominent.  Tufts really isn't that big, and a college that is higher profile, like Harvard, would probably raise more eyebrows.

Using my own 3 easy steps to self-promote, I hereby present (drum roll please):

Adam Stober's First Annual Ranking of the Dumbest Sites on the Entire Internet

  1. The Daily Beast

Checklist: 1.The ranking is controversial and unique, and my methodology is purely editorial.  2. I reviewed thousands of websites I have perused over the last year and unilaterally come up with a decision that is entirely subjective.  Additionally, I might be treated as an authority because I have a consumer Internet blog and an International MBA from the Economist's and Business Week's #1 Ranked Full-Time Business School (Note: I am a proud Booth alum, but I would never claim that Chicago is better than Harvard or that Yale SOM is worse than Kellogg.  They're all great schools, and US News still puts forth the best graduate school rankings, where Booth is currently tied with Wharton for 5th.  The "tie technique" is a ranking manipulation for advanced users only).  3.  I just sent this article to the Tufts PR Account on Twitter, and will be posting to my Facebook network shortly.

If you are reading this article you should have learned that this "create a ranking for shameless self-promotion" is quite effective.  It also means I'm seeking publicity for one thing or another, and it worked.  I am currently seeking feedback on Quotezing, a soon-to-be launched web start-up.  I wonder if IAC, parent Company of the Daily Beast, could provide any input...
 

    Adam Stober

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