Browsing posts in: Analytics

Rebutting Apple’s FAQ on the Lawfare Blog

Today, the Lawfare Blog (a project from the Brookings Institution) published my critique and rebuttal of Apple’s FAQ to its customers in connection with the San Bernardino case. The Lawfare Blog publishes a lot of great stuff, and I think presents a great venue to promote more reasoned engagement between the tech and government communities (rather than each just shouting to their own supporters).

You can read my post here.

In Chicken Biscuits We Trust

We live in a great time to be a consumer. Mass markets, most famously TV and retail, are each undergoing something of a “Golden Age,” driven by disruptive entrants offering compelling new products, often enabled by technology, and competing against sluggish, entrenched legacy incumbents. Think Netflix vs. CBS and NBC, or Amazon or Trunk Club vs any number of brick-and-mortar retailers. The American consumer today is being spoilt for choice, with a proliferating number of companies competing for his and her attention, eyeballs, time and, of course, money.

fast casThere’s a similar phenomenon happening in food, which I find remarkably under-reported on. Most of the “food press” is devoted to the typical foodie beat: the organic/locavore stuff popular with the same wealthy elites that obsess over food as a vehicle for self-expression. That stuff is interesting too – more on it later in this post. Yet there’s another food renaissance happening on the other end of the market: in fast food, and the “fast casual”/quick service restaurant (“QSR”) segment broadly. As consumers, particularly younger ones, shift more of their spending towards experiences and consumables rather than tangible goods, new restaurant concepts are breaking the traditional expectations of the fast food biz and growing like crazy.

I think we’re the early days of broad growth in food, which will eventually absorb many of the dollars Americans are not spending in physical retail stores. Up and down the value chain, from your basic fast-food, to upscale “fast-casual,” to the burgeoning category of meal kit delivery, how and what people eat is changing – with interesting knock-on effects on adjacent industries like transportation and local delivery.

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Feeling the SAS

sasToday was my last day at Demandware. Starting Monday, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll be stepping into a senior product management role at the SAS Institute right here in RTP.

I’m tremendously proud of our accomplishments at Demandware over the last year. The company is stacked with talent and is strongly positioned for continued growth in the retail ecommerce market. Since I joined the company, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a ton about the retail industry, particularly in the top-tier segment, and I know that the folks up there in Burlington are going to have a heck of a 2016 to come.

But this opportunity at SAS was just too appealing to pass up. Not only am I getting back into a pure product role, where I feel at home, but SAS’s Customer Intelligence group is doing some very interesting things in the next generation of marketing tech. As I learned more about what they’ve built, and what’s still to come, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. More on that to come.

I’m also deeply impressed by the kind of organization SAS strives to be. SAS, which is still private after nearly 40 years, is a strongly data-driven culture that cares deeply about taking care of its people – to the extent that it’s famous for being a great place to work. (Many people don’t know that Google used SAS as a model when developing their own employee retention strategy.) SAS also spends roughly double the industry average on R&D as a percentage of revenue, which is one of the reasons they’re the undisputed leader in business intelligence today.

I’m jumping right in next week, so stay tuned. Happy Halloween! ?



Elon Musk is wrong: we aren’t going to colonize Mars


The-MartianI’m going to write something shocking here, and I want to prepare you for it first. Remember that this comes from a total sci-fi geek; I have, at various times in my life, owned not only a toy phaser, but a tricorder and communicator to boot. I have seen every episode of Star Trek ever made (yes, really). I can have an informed discussion about the relative merits of visions of the future embodied by the Foundation series, the Culture, or the Hegemony of Man. I love this stuff.

Yet any way I approach it, the conclusion seems inevitable: manned spaceflight is mostly a waste of resources, and we should stop doing it.

Between NASA’s announcement of water on Mars, the release of The Martian (awesome movie, go check it out!) and Elon Musk’s incessant demands that we go nuke and colonize that same poor, undeserving planet, we’re experiencing a newfound fever pitch of exuberance about space exploration these days. That’s awesome – go exploration! Go science! Yet so many people rush right past the “exploration” part of that in their hurry to get to “so when can I board a shuttle to Europa?” that I decided a reality check was in order.

In short: exploration is great, and we should do more of it. But sending humans into space is, for the most part, a huge waste of resources done for all the wrong reasons. Here’s why.

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Collision Course

shipsOver the last few months, I’ve been meeting with a lot of folks working in ecommerce at major retail brands in North America. There’s been a ton of interest in the Shopping Index reporting my team at Demandware has been working on, particularly as everyone begins their holiday campaign planning. The Index is a project to apply analytics reporting to the incredible amount of ecommerce data that flows across the 1,300+ retail sites on the Demandware platform – you can read more about it here.

Since I joined Demandware, I’ve been struck by the many similarities between the digital analytics and ecommerce platform markets. These are both fast-developing markets whose clients – small, mid-sized and large companies, mostly B2C but also B2B – are seeing most of their new growth, if not all of it, in digital rather than brick-and-mortar. As a result, these companies are racing to adopt new technology to support that growth, which often leads to painful and awkward change in their organizations.

I’ve noticed that, over and over, when I’ve been talking with ecommerce teams, the conversation begins squarely in ecommerce and gradually drifts towards… something else. Part marketing, part commerce, part customer experience, part “digital intelligence,” if you want to call it that. Ecommerce folks are constantly referring back to topics I used to talk about while at Coremetrics – contextual marketing, using data to inform merchandising, leveraging browsing and search data, and so on.

For someone whose tech career has been built in the technology of how people buy and shop online, this convergence is… interesting. And it has given me some clues about where the industry is headed, probably sooner than we think.


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