Posts tagged ‘bmoc’

Business Model Ripped From the Pages of My Book BMOC

Apparently, a company named "Sumpto" has adopted a business model right out of my novel BMOC (written about 7 years ago).  This is a scene where entrepreneur Preston Marsh is interviewing and trying to recruit the protagonist Susan out of business school.  They are discussing the business model of his company called BMOC.  Half of its business model was that companies paid BMOC to place their products in the hands of influential high school students.

[Marsh:] The real innovation, though is… do you know what a product placement is?”

[Susan:] “Sure. It’s when a company pays to get their product into a TV show or movie – like when Reese’s pieces were used in the movie ET or I guess if you showed Seabiscuit eating Purina Horse Chow.”

“Exactly! And product placements are particularly effective. They act like an ad but they can’t be ignored like an ad. Anyway, we have taken product placements one step further: We get paid by major manufacturers to place their products not in movies but in the hands of the most popular kids in high school, the ones who really lead opinion as to what’s cool and not cool who we…”

“Who you happen to have on retainer anyway.”

“Exactly. But be careful how you think about ‘on retainer.’ The natural reaction is to assume this means money, but in our case it’s not. We keep the most popular people on retainer merely by …”

“Giving them free products,” Susan interrupted again, with growing excitement, “that manufacturers are already paying you to put in their hands.”

This is from Sumpto's web site.  (You will have to click through, for some reason even copying it as text is crashing my site, not sure why).

A big hat tip to reader Don, who not only found the site but paid me the indirect complement of having remembered my book.  Thanks!

Yet another case when I was 7-10 years too early (at Mercata were were about 10 years too early to cash in on social media as Groupon did with a similar model to ours).  But honestly, I was trying to make up quasi-outrageous business models.  For god sakes the other two major business ventures in the book were building fountains to harvest the coins thrown in them and selling musical tones for elevators.  I had no idea I should have been getting venture funding.

By the way, for the dozens of my literary fans, I am almost done with my next book, which is  really going to be good.   This novel writing thing really is about practice.  Teasers to follow...

Book Update

I had a nice Instalanche this morning on my post about the 99-cent price point on the Amazon Kindle for my book BMOC.  I also got a bit of attention at the KindleBoards forum.  So my book is nosing into the top 500 on Kindle, but until my kid noticed I did not see the other topical rankings:

LOL, #1 in Books>Entertainment>Humor>Laywers.  #2 on the same but for business.  Whole new niches beckon!  (Actually, these categories kind of make sense, though I am not sure who chose them --  I am not sure I did).

99-Cent Kindle Book Update

For the second straight day, I have sold fifty copies of BMOC, for a total of a hundred in two days, at 99-cents.  Fifty copies is more than I was selling in several weeks at the old price.  Thanks to Glen Reynolds for linking the idea.

99-cent Book Experience, Day 1

Well, it may only be a short-term kick driven by you fine readers  (my thanks) but yesterday in the first day at the 99-cent price point I sold fifty copies of BMOC and jumped to number 2067 in the sales rank.  Since my main goal is to be read, rather than make money, this is great.

Amazon Bargain

My novel BMOC is now $0.99 at Amazon.  With my second book coming out sometime soon (I hope) I thought I would experiment with online pricing models.  I sold about 30 a month at the old price, but Glen Reynolds linked an article praising the 99-cent Kindle price point.  So what the heck, let's try it.  My loss is your gain, as the ads say.

Reasons you might like the novel:

  • It's a sort of combination of Harvard Business School case study and murder mystery, with some humor thrown in
  • The business at the center of the novel is actually the good guy (err gal, I guess, since the protagonist is female). While sympathetic to capitalism, the book is primarily a light crime novel, not some sort of Randian morality tale.
  • The villains include a media mogul, a tort lawyer, a local news anchor, and a US Senator  -- just like life!
  • Several of the business models were made up on the fly when I attended boring cocktail parties and entertained myself creating whimsical businesses for myself.  Since that time, readers of the book have emailed me with news stories of recent startup companies following almost identical strategies.
  • 4-stars at Amazon

First Ever Inside Reference to My Novel

This is probably the first ever inside reference to my novel. The funny part is that when I read TJIC's post, I thought "hmm, Preston Marsh, where have I heard that name?"  LOL.  By the way, the business idea Travis has is actually intriguing

Restaurants get napkins and linens as a service "“ every day, they trade huge bags of dirty whites for clean whites. They are in the business of cooking food and hiring wait staff, not in the business of knowing how to bleach things (or in the business of picking out linens that can stand up to bleach).

So what does clothing as a service entail? It could include cleaning, sizing, rotating wardrobes as fashions change, etc.

It removes some hassles, and bundles responsibilities in the place where there are economies of scale "“ people in the fashion industry can and will know more about sizing, cleaning, coordinating, etc. than consumers.

I and others have thoughts on the model in the comments.

By the way, for those who have not read my book, Preston Marsh is an entrepreneur who has made money in a series of sortof odd business models.  Years ago I used to get bored at parties (actually, I still get bored at parties but I no longer use this entertainment technique) and make up occupations for myself.  I remember convincing one woman who had recent evidence that I could not ski well that I was on the Olympic Ski Jumping Team  ("You don't have to turn in ski jumping!")

Anyway, all the business models in the books are ones I made up for myself on the fly at parties.  One involves building fountains in malls and then recouping the investment by harvesting coins from them.  Another, which is central to the book, is a sort of guerrilla marketing startup which does some lifestyle consulting with teens but makes its money placing products in the hands of the coolest, trendsetting teens at high schools (a model that has since been emulated by a couple of real-life companies).

By the way, the book is still on sale at Amazon and available on the Kindle for download.  Just search "BMOC."

My First Novel Now on Kindle

My first novel, "BMOC," is now on Kindle for $4.99, a substantial discount off the  $17.95 price Amazon has for the dead tree version.  Incredibly, my author royalty is WAY more for the Kindle version even at that price than for the paper version.

Anyway, if you like this site, you might check it out.  The novel is part murder mystery, party comedy, and part business book.   I used to have fun with my friends at business school and later in nconsulting thinking up odd new business models (e.g. coin harvesting from fountains) and this book embodies some of the odder ones we came up with.  Though as wacky as the business model of the main company in the book (called "BMOC" appropriately enough) was supposed to be, since writing it I have had a number of people send me stories of startups pursuing eerily similar approaches to marketing.  Anyway, the book is a light read though with adult language and a tiny bit of sex.

It Is Getting Harder and Harder to Write Satire

A portion of my novel BMOC was satire of oddball lawsuits.  In that book, for example, I had a woman suing Disney because she found that the characters at Disney World were people in costumes rather than the actual animated characters she had expected.  I thought that was enough beyond reason and reality to constitute satire, but I guess I was wrong:

On May 21, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed a complaint filed by a woman who said she had purchased "Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries" because she believed "crunchberries" were real fruit. The plaintiff, Janine Sugawara, alleged that she had only recently learned to her dismay that said "berries" were in fact simply brightly-colored cereal balls, and that although the product did contain some strawberry fruit concentrate, it was not otherwise redeemed by fruit. She sued, on behalf of herself and all similarly situated consumers who also apparently believed that there are fields somewhere in our land thronged by crunchberry bushes.

Symbiosis

Via Overlawyered:

How "safety" news gets shaped: a litigation consultant "at the request of trial lawyers "¦ combed through hundreds of coroner's reports and media accounts" and before long ABC had an alarming story to run.

There is a symbiosis between tort lawyers (who want to inflame a jury into giving large awards, or better yet create a mass tort), the media (who want scare stories to boost circulation) and government (populated with legislators just itching to ban or regulate something to show they "care").  Someone should write a book about that.

Amazon One-Star Reviews

Have I ever told you that I really like author John Scalzi?  Not just because I love his books, but I do really enjoy his work.  I like him because he spends a lot of time promoting the work of other young writers and promoting the science fiction and fantasy genre in general.

Recently, Scalzi published on his blog all his Amazon one-star reviews.  As a fairly novice writer who will never write as well as Scalzi, I found this quite liberating.  If folks like him endure these bad reviews, maybe I should not let my own setbacks get me down.  He has challenged other authors to do the same, publishing their Amazon one-star reviews online.  In this post, he links a number of authors who have taken up the challenge, including Charles Stross and Jo Walton.

So, though I am not in the league of these other authors, I will post my one-star review for my book BMOC.

I like the concept for the book and like reading Warren Meyer's Coyote
Blog. I don't understand how crude and uncouth became popular and I am
disappointed that is the approach that was chosen with this book. I
should have paid attention to the review by "Warren's mother." I've
returned my copy to Amazon for a refund.

Wow, I actually feel better.  Based on this review, I will warn you as I warn my friends when I give them a copy:  The book has its crude parts, and I have only let my kids read highly edited portions.  That being said, its not Fear of Flying either, and my parent's priest read it without spontaneously combusting.  But don't buy it if you are turned off by harsh language and some sexual humor.  I have two youth novels in the works, you can save your money for them ;=)

Postscript:  This is one of the one-star reviews posted for Anya Bast's Witch Fire:

"Not romance, not erotica, basically porn - what little plot there is
exists to connect the sex scenes, note I didn't say love making scenes.
Altogether distasteful and I won't waste money on this author again."

LOL, if the review is trying to hurt Ms. Bast's sales, I am not positive this is the right approach.

Don't Bother Reading the News; Just Read My Novel

Excerpt from my novel BMOC that I posted hours after the Spitzer revelations:

Taking a deep
breath, Givens said, "Senator, there is a reason that this one is not
going
away. I will spell it out: S-E-X. The press doesn't give a shit about a
few billion dollars of waste. No one tunes in to the evening news if
the
teaser is "˜Government pays too much for a bridge, news at eleven.' The
Today Show doesn't interview the
contractors benefiting from a useless bridge."

"However, everybody
and his dog will tune in if
the teaser is "˜Your tax dollars are funding call girls, film at
eleven'. Jesus, do you really think the CBS Evening
News is going to turn down a chance to put hookers on the evening news?
Not just tonight but day after day? Just watch "“ Dan Rather will be
interviewing
hookers and Chris Mathews will be interviewing hookers and for God's
sakes
Barbara Walters will probably have a weepy interview with a hooker."

OK, I missed it by that much.  It is Diane Sawyer, not Barbara Walters.

At least one good thing has come out of Eliot Spitzer's fall from
grace: Diane Sawyer will finally get to air her hooker special!

Almost two years ago, Sawyer and producers at "Prime Time Live" set
out to do a story on prostitution. Wanting to examine Nevada's legal
brothels, she headed out to the famous Moonlite Bunny Ranch.

"She really hit it off with all my girls," Bunny Ranch head Dennis
Hof tells us. "We even gave her one of the terry-cloth bathrobes they
wear. We had it embroidered, "Diane: Trainee."

Stranger than Fiction -- Eliot Spitzer and Prostitutes

My novel BMOC included an incompetent and power-abusing Senator who managed to remain a darling of the press as long as he focused his attention on pork-barrel spending and using government power to help and hurt his friends and enemies.  However, the press finally turned on him when it became known he was involved with prostitutes.  The fairly cynical (if not realistic) moral was that it was fine to abuse government power, just don't get caught in a sex scandal.

Well, it seems that we will get to test that notion in real life.  Apparently, NY governor Eliot Spitzer has been dallying with prostitutes.  Now, I couldn't really care less about his purchase of sex -- I have argued many times for legalization of prostitution.  But it will be an interesting test of my book's cynical hypothesis, since to date the press has been in love with Spitzer despite (even because of) his abusive practices as AG and governor.  The radio news a few minutes ago actually said "Mr. Spitzer, who to date has had a squeaky clean reputation..."  Huh?  Only if you read the fawning PR work done for him by the NY Times in the past.

Update: Here is the passage from the book.  Sound familiar?

Taking a deep
breath, Givens said, "Senator, there is a reason that this one is not going
away. I will spell it out: S-E-X. The press doesn't give a shit about a few billion dollars of waste. No one tunes in to the evening news if the
teaser is "˜Government pays too much for a bridge, news at eleven.' The Today Show doesn't interview the
contractors benefiting from a useless bridge."

"However, everybody and his dog will tune in if
the teaser is "˜Your tax dollars are funding call girls, film at eleven'. Jesus, do you really think the CBS Evening
News is going to turn down a chance to put hookers on the evening news? Not just tonight but day after day? Just watch "“ Dan Rather will be interviewing
hookers and Chris Mathews will be interviewing hookers and for God's sakes
Barbara Walters will probably have a weepy interview with a hooker."....

"You guys in the Senate can get away with a lot,
as long as long as a) you don't get caught or b) the scandal is so boring or
complex that it won't sell newspapers. Hell, I saw a poll the other day that a substantial percentage of
Americans to this day don't understand or even believe what Richard Nixon did
was wrong. But if you polled those same
people, every freaking one of them would say that they knew and believed that
Bill Clinton got [had sex with] an intern.

Update #2: Disclosure -- I did not like Spitzer, even at Princeton.  This, however, was not uncommon.  In fact, Spitzer managed to inspire a jihad in response to his governance of the student council there.

Update #3:  ROFL!  I got this email from a reader:

I eagerly await your
comments on the latest imbroglio involving your favorite Princeton
classmate.  Please don't take the high road.

It seems I may not be the only person who does not care for Mr. Spitzer.

Update #4:  I hope the girls paid sales taxes on their transactions and have all their payroll taxes in order.  Certainly Mr. Spitzer has established the principle that illegal businesses still owe taxes.

That seems to be the axiom in New York these days, where Gov. Eliot L.
Spitzer (D), struggling to close a $4.4 billion budget gap, has
proposed making drug dealers pay tax on their stashes of illegal drugs.
The new tax would apply to cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and could be
paid with pre-bought "tax stamps" affixed to the bags of dope.

Update #5:  Libertarians like myself will point out that this is all between consenting adults.  Of course, that did not stop Eliot Spitzer from trying to prosecute Dick Grasso for a pay package that was approved by consenting (and quite sophisticated) adults.

Update #6: It is being reported that Spitzer will resign.  QED folks.  Spitzer uses the state police to spy on political rivals and the press continues to call him a squeaky clean reformer.  But pay for sex with a consenting adult, and your gone. 

Update #7:  Tom Kirkendal has been all over Spitzer for years.  He writes:

But I hope that the most important lesson that
Spitzer's political career teaches us is not lost amidst the glare of a
tawdry sex scandal. As with Rudy Giuliani
before him, Spitzer rose to political power through the misuse of the
state's overwhelming prosecutorial power to regulate business
interests. In so doing, Spitzer manipulated an all-too-accommodating
mainstream media, which never misses an opportunity to take down an
easy target such as a wealthy businessperson. Spitzer is now learning
that the same media dynamic applies to powerful politicians, as well. 

However, as noted earlier here,
where was the mainstream media's scrutiny when Spitzer was destroying
wealth, jobs and careers while threatening to go Arthur Andersen on
American Insurance Group and other companies? Where was the healthy
skepticism of the unrestrained use of the state's prosecutorial power
to regulate business where business had no available regulatory
procedure with which to contest Spitzer's actions?

New Grisham Novel

I have not been able to read a Grisham lawyer novel since "the Runaway Jury,"  which was an absolutely amazing ode to the joys of jury tampering.  Seldom does one see an author treat so many abuses of due process and individual rights so lovingly, all because it is OK to take away a defendant's right to a fair trial as long as the defendant is an out-of-favor corporation.  (On the other hand, Grisham's "the Painted House," about growing up on a small cotton farm in the south, is wonderful).

Grisham's biases in the Runaway Jury become clearer to me now that I now he pals with Dickie Scruggs, notorious Mississippi tort lawyer who is soon to be sharing a cell next to Jeff Skilling, that is unless they can delay his investigation until Jon Edwards is attorney general.

Anyway, it seems Grisham may be up for the bad timing award:

With what might seem like startlingly bad timing, Scruggs chum/novelist (and campaign donation co-bundler,
if that's the right term) John Grisham is just out with a new fiction
entitled The Appeal, whose thesis, to judge by Janet Maslin's oddly favorable review in the Times,
is that the real problem with the Mississippi judicial system is that
salt-of-the-earth plaintiff's lawyers are hopelessly outgunned in the
task of trying to get friendly figures elected to judgeships to sustain
the large jury verdicts they win. One wonders whether any of Maslin's
editors warned her about recent news events -- she doesn't seem aware
of them -- that suggest that the direst immediate problems of the
Mississippi judiciary might not relate to populist plaintiff's lawyers'
being unfairly shut out of influence. Of course it's possible she's not
accurately conveying the moral of Grisham's book, and if so I'm not
likely to be the first to find out about it, since I've never succeeded
in reading more than a few pages of that popular author's work. By the
way, if you're wondering which character in the novel Grisham presents
as the "hothead with a massive ego who hated to lose," yep, it's the
out-of-state defendant.

If you would prefer a novel that make villains of tort lawyers and treats Mississippi as a trial-lawyer run legal hellhole, my novel BMOC is still on sale (and actually selling pretty steadily) at Amazon.

Perfect Gift for the Holidays!

From the Business Opportunities Weblog:

Continuing my list of my favorite business books of 2007 brings us to another unconventional one: BMOC.
While the book, by Warren Meyer, is fictional, it does contain a number
of interesting business ideas, including my favorite outlandish
business opporunity of all time: fountain coin harvesting.

Amazon link for BMOC here  (sorry, I tried to get the price cut for the holidays but it really takes a long time for that to work through the system).

Sample Environmental Requirements

Often businesses complain about ridiculously tedious environmental regulation and paperwork, and they don't seem to get much sympathy.  The usual opposing response is just to say "oh, you guys just are mad that you can't dump dioxin in the river any more."

But I am here to tell you -- many of the requirements are really, really detailed, time-consuming, and of questionable value.  To demonstrate this, I am going to let you into my life for a minute.  Among the many recreation facilities we operate (my business described here), we run a small pair of marinas on Blue Mesa Lake in Colorado.  At these marinas we rent boats, have a fuel dock, and do some light boat maintenance for customers.  We are renting the facility from the government (specifically the National Park Service), and as our landlord they provided all the facilities.

When we inherited the facilities from the previous tenant, they were in awful condition.  We have had to spend a lot of money brining the government's facilities up to standard, removing years of hazardous waste, etc.  Our reward was to get audited by the EPA and the NPS.  For those of you who are interested in what environmental regulation looks like to a small business, you may view a pdf of our audit results.  You can't possibly read everything, but skim through the findings to get the general idea.  And as you are reading, note that this is a GOOD audit -- we were actually commended in Washington for the work we had done cleaning up the place.  And still this work list remains.  Remember also while reading this that I don't run a chemical plant or a steel mill, this is a small marina on a lake.

For those who don't want to scoll through all 52 items, here is one, chosen at random:

Audit Finding:
Each container of hazardous chemicals in the workplace was not labeled, tagged, or marked with the following information:
- Identity of the hazardous chemical(s) contained therein; and
- Appropriate hazard warnings.

For example:

  • A white plastic bucket was observed with no label in the flammable cabinet at the maintenance yard;
  • Three unlabeled 55-gallon drums were observed at the maintenance yard, one of which had a sign of leakage;
  • An unlabeled plastic white bottle was observed on one of the blue drums at the maintenance yard;
  • A red flammable container was observed next to the flammable cabinet at the maintenance yard. The cap was not on. It was noted that the container was partially full with water;
  • Two red and one blue unlabeled drums were stored at the back of the maintenance yard. The blue drum had signs of leakage;
  • The carbon dioxide cylinder in use at Pappy's Restaurant had a worn label;
  • Two unlabeled spray bottles were observed in Pappy's Restaurant washing room;
  • An unlabeled bucket was observed in Pappy's Restaurant washing room under a shelf on which detergents are stored;
  • Unlabeled partially full buckets were observed in Pappy's Restaurant washing room;
  • An unlabeled spray bottle was observed in the maintenance room for the showers at Elk Creek; and
  • An spray bottle that contained purple liquid was observed in the shower maintenance room at Lake Fork.  The bottle had a worn label.

Update:  From the looks of this fish, maybe we are putting something odd in the lake!

Update:  Here is another good one:

Audit Finding:
Concessioner staff had not submitted an ozone-depleting substance (ODS)-containing equipment registration form and fee with the State of Colorado.

Good old Colorado.  Colorado is one of the states I have to have a special license to sell eggs

Here is a quick contest -- I will send a free  copy of my book (my global warming book or my novel BMOC) to the first reader who can email me with a link to the correct Colorado web page with information and/or forms for the ODS-containing equipment registration.  I can't find it.

Update 2:  I can be a man and admit when another man has bested me.  So I must admit that though it is my environmental audit, TJIC has a much better post on it than I have.  Maybe because he seems to have read more of it than I have.

BMOC Continues to Be Precient

Previously, I posted how my book BMOC foresaw a new business model in giving product placements to the most popular high school kids as opinion leaders who would drive adoption by their fellow teens.

This week, TJIC points out that the New York Times is starting to sniff around another business model in the book, that of fountain coin harvesting.  They are starting to see the market:

In all these babbling places, the story is the same: Coins pile up, Mr.
Mendez removes them and people's fascination with tossing pocket change
into water continues, unexplained"¦

But miss the real business model (from the book):

On
the basis of this market research and his quirky insight, Preston Marsh founded
3Coins, Inc, and began an intensive six month research and development
program. He hired engineers from several
hot tub and spa companies that had developed the modular spa, a design where
all the necessary pumps and plumbing were integrated with the tub into a single
portable unit. His designers worked long
weeks coming up with three modular fountain designs, driving down the estimated
manufacturing cost to just $350 per unit. 

Next,
Preston Marsh took these fountain designs to mall owners, architects, building
managers, landscapers and anyone who designed or owned public spaces. In every case, the deal was the same: Preston Marsh would give the client one or
more free fountains to adorn their public spaces, and would even provide the
labor to clean and treat the fountains once a week. In return, Preston Marsh literally "kept the
change". Preston Marsh paid local
entrepreneurs 25% of the change drop to clean the fountains and empty and
deposit the change. The rest was pure
profit.

The
resulting economics were startling. For
each installation, Preston Marsh had up-front investments of about $750,
including the $350 tub plus delivery and installation. In return, Preston Marsh gained about $50 a
week in revenue, or $37.50 after the servicing agent took his 25%. Over a year, the fountain would produce
$1,950 in revenue, with virtually no expenses or overhead. 

After
five years, 3Coins had nearly 10,000 fountains in place, generating almost $20
million in annual revenue, over half of which was profit. And Preston Marsh owned 100% of the company.

You can still buy BMOC at Amazon, which has had a bit of a sales resurgence of late after a couple of press mentions.   Servers are standing by.

 

BMOC Continues to Be Precient

Previously, I posted how my book BMOC foresaw a new business model in giving product placements to the most popular high school kids as opinion leaders who would drive adoption by their fellow teens.

This week, TJIC points out that the New York Times is starting to sniff around another business model in the book, that of fountain coin harvesting.  They are starting to see the market:

In all these babbling places, the story is the same: Coins pile up, Mr.
Mendez removes them and people's fascination with tossing pocket change
into water continues, unexplained"¦

But miss the real business model (from the book):

On
the basis of this market research and his quirky insight, Preston Marsh founded
3Coins, Inc, and began an intensive six month research and development
program. He hired engineers from several
hot tub and spa companies that had developed the modular spa, a design where
all the necessary pumps and plumbing were integrated with the tub into a single
portable unit. His designers worked long
weeks coming up with three modular fountain designs, driving down the estimated
manufacturing cost to just $350 per unit. 

Next,
Preston Marsh took these fountain designs to mall owners, architects, building
managers, landscapers and anyone who designed or owned public spaces. In every case, the deal was the same: Preston Marsh would give the client one or
more free fountains to adorn their public spaces, and would even provide the
labor to clean and treat the fountains once a week. In return, Preston Marsh literally "kept the
change". Preston Marsh paid local
entrepreneurs 25% of the change drop to clean the fountains and empty and
deposit the change. The rest was pure
profit.

The
resulting economics were startling. For
each installation, Preston Marsh had up-front investments of about $750,
including the $350 tub plus delivery and installation. In return, Preston Marsh gained about $50 a
week in revenue, or $37.50 after the servicing agent took his 25%. Over a year, the fountain would produce
$1,950 in revenue, with virtually no expenses or overhead. 

After
five years, 3Coins had nearly 10,000 fountains in place, generating almost $20
million in annual revenue, over half of which was profit. And Preston Marsh owned 100% of the company.

You can still buy BMOC at Amazon, which has had a bit of a sales resurgence of late after a couple of press mentions.   Servers are standing by.

 

Chicken Contact Lenses

Jane Galt makes a case against industrial animal husbandry, a position which she argues is not inconsistent with being a libertarian or classical liberal.  While I don't get as worked up about such practices as cruel, I don't think it is inconsistent for a libertarian to be so concerned.  And I don't rule out that I would be just as worked up if I were more informed about what was going on.

However, what really caught me eye was this:

This is an approximate description of what happens to industrially
farmed chickens . . . lifted, mind you, from a business school case
aimed at helping industrial farms be more efficient, by using rose
coloured chicken contact lenses to cut down on the need for debeaking
'em.

I can attest that this was indeed a real case that we studied at Harvard Business School*.  In fact, it so freaked me out at the time as a concept that I included it in my most recent novel.  From BMOC [warning, profanity lurks ahead]:

Poor, boring, earnest Julian
was always prepared, because he was always terrified, scared to death
that one night slacking off might somehow destroy his future Career
(always with a capital-C), and therefore future Life, much like the
fear of catching AIDS from a one night stand.  Julian participated
(unfortunately) all too much in class, droning on in that irritating
voice of his, advocating positions as spectacularly expected as
Susan's were non-conformist.

Julian,
therefore, was not really a candidate to get cold-called to open the
class discussion, particularly this late in the year.  However, it
was clear to everyone in the room, particularly the professor, that
Julian longed to open a case.  Every day Julian would look at
the professor with this hopelessly wistful expression, only to be
followed by a look of desolation when someone else was chosen.

So
today, letting Julian open was in the same spirit as the homecoming
queen giving a pity-fuck on the last day of high school to the geek
who has been mooning and sighing over her for four years.  And right
at this
moment, Julian had the same surprised and ecstatic look on his face
that the geek would have.

But it was not just the site of
Julian creaming all over himself at his chance to open that had Susan
longing for the piranha button.  Some satanic twist of fate had
Julian Rogers earnestly and painstakingly laying out a strategy and
plan for the new product roll out of ... contact lenses for chickens.
Contact fucking lenses for Christ-sake chickens.  Right this very
second he was outlining his sales pitch to chicken farmers,
explaining how putting contacts in chicken's eyes will somehow
reduce the number of chickens that have to have their beak cut off.
Did she hear that right?  This had to be a joke "“ but no,
everyone seemed to be taking it seriously, and certainly Julian was
taking it deadly seriously.

* I know those anti-capitalists out there will be using this as evidence that business school is crafted to keep us cold and heartless.  HBS consisted of studying 2-3 cases per day for about 200 days a year, which means that over two years one might read a thousand business cases.  This case was more in the spirit of breaking the monotony of yet another case on brass vs. plastic water meters rather than part of a consistent attempt to make us cold and heartless.

Coyote Sees the Future

James Dean, reader of both my blog and my book BMOC, sent me a great article about several companies that are pursuing business models surprisingly close to the one I made up for BMOC in my book.

Quick background:  In my novel, I imagined that the company BMOC had recruited the most popular kids at a number of high schools -- kids who were true social opinion makers, so to speak.  I posited that BMOC monetized these relationships by 1) Helping clients of BMOC in the same school become more popular and 2) Seeding these kids with free products (video games, cosmetics, etc.) which would cause other kids who followed their example to go out and buy the same products.  The free products both paid the popular kids for their consulting work helping to make BMOC clients more popular, and acted as a guerrilla marketing tactic for the companies that sell these products.  (The section of the novel explaining the business model in detail is here).

Well, I have not seen anyone pursuing part 1, but apparently a number of companies are pursuing part 2:

Shoppers will be given the opportunity to test products or
services, share them with their friends and, all being well,
recommend them to a wider audience - without a cent being spent on
traditional advertising.

One company, Yooster, predicts it will have 50,000 "influencers"
- the marketing moniker for trendsetters and mavens - on its books
by June, ready to spruik a client's wares solely for the social
kudos of getting the product before it hits the shelves.

The chief executive and founder of Yooster, Piers Hogarth-Scott,
said: "If you are a 20-year-old girl at university and you get the
latest lipstick from Gucci months before it is out on the shelves
and you are able to give it to your friends then you are going to
look good. That gives you immense [social] currency."

You can buy BMOC at Amazon.

Wacky Business Models

A reader sends this one in, after reading my book BMOC.  One of the characters in the book is a business man who has a knack for monetizing wacky business models  (one example:  providing free fountains to malls in exchange for being able to harvest the coins out of them).  The book is named after his new company called BMOC, which specializes in making teens popular.

This caused a reader to send me this web site for FakeYourSpace.com.  They are selling popularity their own way, by providing you comments and visits from hot and cool friends on your MySpace pages.  Sort of sock puppetry for teens.

Welcome to Fake Your Space. You have found a new and
exciting service which offers help to all the men and women out there
who don't feel like they are popular enough on social networking sites
such as MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster.
If you are tired of seeing everyone else with the hottest friends and
want some hotties of your own, then this is the place for you.

LOL.  Wish I had thought of it for my book.  Below the fold is the business model for BMOC, which I thought was crazy enough:

Continue reading ‘Wacky Business Models’ »

Good Freaking Luck

Harvard has a new president.  Good freaking luck.  That job chewed up someone I respected (Neal Rudenstine) and someone who tried to reform the institution (Larry Sommers).  I would rather try to bring good government to Haiti than try to run that dysfunctional organization in Cambridge.  Premiers of the Soviet Union had less power than the Harvard faculty wields.  I am one of many Harvard graduate students I know who appreciate the education we got but hate the institution.  My Princeton roomie Brink Lindsey helped start the NOPE campaign - Not One Penny Ever (to Harvard).

If you want a taste of why, below the fold I have included an excerpt of a chapter from my book BMOC (still at Amazon for those who have not used up their Christmas gift certificates yet).  This chapter is pretty autobiographical, except for the part where the character is, you know, a girl.

From the end of Chapter 8 of BMOC:

Susan looked around her small apartment in the nightmare that was the Peabody Terrace apartments, a pair of Harvard-owned hi-rise apartments located across the river from the business school.  Susan was convinced that these apartments were part of a 1950's Soviet plot to undermine America's youth.  The building design was right out of East Berlin, with its all cast concrete construction.  Even the interior walls were concrete, giving it the warmth and ambiance of a World War II German pillbox.  Her tower had an elevator, but it only stopped on every third floor, a cost saving measure also borrowed from the East Germans.  Of course, her floor was not one of the stops.  

She had dithered about whether even to apply to Harvard, and had applied in the last application group, after most of the spots in the school had already been filled.  She was not actually accepted into the school until well into June, leaving her just about dead last in the housing lottery.  Only a few foreign students from strange, lesser developed countries she had barely heard of were so far back in the room queue, which helped to explain why her entryway was always choked with the smell of bizarre foods cooking using unfamiliar spices.  Her walk to and from school involved crossing a lonely and poorly lighted footbridge, which was, coincidently, the coldest spot in New England on most winter days.

Whenever she walked into her building, she had difficulty fighting off a sense of despair and loneliness, even despite her generally sunny disposition.  The building was that depressing.  To make matters worse, she had spent most of the winter fighting with the Harvard administrative departments over the temperature in her room. She had complained nearly every day about the cold, and knew things were bad when frost started to form on the inside of her windows.  A worker from building services had finally come by, but instead of a toolbox he brought a thermometer, which he placed in the center of the room and just stared at for five minutes.  Then he picked it up, looked at it, and declared that the room was fine.

"Fine?" she had screamed.  "How can it be fine?  It's freezing in here!"

"Mam, the thermometer says 54 degrees.  State law says we don't have to do anything unless it falls below 50 degrees," observed the housing guy.

"State law?!  Who gives a shit about state law?  What about customer service?  What about the sixty grand I pay to this university?"

But she had gotten nowhere, at least until she started putting the oven on broil with the door open to try to keep the room warm.  Once the building services folks saw that, with all the implicit fire and liability dangers, her radiator had finally been fixed.

Looking around the cold and depressing room, she decided she definitely did not want to be here now.  She wanted to celebrate her new job, not stare at four bare condensate-dampened concrete walls.

BMOC Reviews

I am way behind on posting some of these reviews, but Market Power has a review of BMOC here.

There is also at least one new (5-star!) review up at Amazon.  It makes a great, uh... President's Day gift!

The State of Litigation

Overlawyered today provides a link to this article in Roger Parloff's blog at Fortune

The nation's leading class-action lawyer, Bill Lerach, is currently in
an ugly scrape in federal court in Dallas, where the sole lead
plaintiff in a high-profile shareholder suit against Halliburton (HAL)
no longer wants Lerach or his firm to act as its co-lead counsel. (I've
posted about it before here and here.)
To recap, the fund has said that it is concerned about all the
distractions and the sleaze factor now surrounding Lerach and his prior
firm, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach (which Lerach co-ran)...

The squeamish plaintiff, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Supporting Fund, has asked that Lerach Coughlin be replaced by David
Boies and his firm, Boies Schiller & Flexner, which firm has
indicated that it is ready, willing, and able to assume the role.

Needless to say, Lerach is fighting the uppity plaintiff to keep control of the case.

Parloff goes on to question some of Lerach's statements in the case.  However, I want to make a different point.  This points out fairly clearly that Lerach and other top litigators have adopted a whole new theory of litigation and of the relationship between lawyer and client.

It used to be that clients would suffer some sort of injury and seek redress in the courts.  To do so, they would hire an attorney to help them.  The attorney was the hired help, compensated either hourly or via a percentage of any awards.

Today, the situation is often reversed.  It is the attorney who is identifying lawsuit targets for class actions and shareholder suits, and then seeking out clients who can maximize his chances of success.  Clients, who typically make orders of magnitude less than the attorney in class actions (think 50-cent coupons and $8 million attorney fees) are selected because they are sympathetic, or give access to a particularly plaintiff-attractive jurisdiction, or, in cases such as ADA suits in California, because they have effectively become partners with the attorney in serial torts.

So if you wonder why Lerach is suing his client for not using his services, and if that makes you wonder who is working for whom, now you know.

Update: By the way, this reversal of the relationship between attorney and client is one of the recurring themes in my novel BMOC.

BMOC Online Reviews

I am a little behind on my email, so I am late in posting some of the reviews coming in on my book BMOC.  My habit is to post every review I can find, positive or negative.  Let me know by email if you have a review and I will link it as well.  Some of the reviewers below seem to like the book a lot, while some are more lukewarm, but I thank everyone for reading it and taking the time to post a thoughtful review.

After years of practice with non-fiction, I am still refining my fiction voice and style.  It is hard to over-emphasize how important it is to get critical feedback from people who are not a) paid by me, i.e. editors or b) friends and family, who make up most everyone's first readers.  I am already learning a lot from reviews about what works and doesn't work, what is interesting, and what comes off as a cliche.   And of course I continue to be proud that I have some of the smartest readers in the blogosphere.  Thanks.  [Of course I am going to quote the good stuff, but click through to see everything]

Human Advancement (what a beautiful web design he has)

I picked it up Christmas morning, with the intention of reading a
chapter or two in that little lull that always comes after the presents
are opened. You've heard the cliche "I couldn't put it down"? Well,
next thing I knew dinner was ready, and after eating I picked it right
back up and finished it.

I had kind of assumed it would be another one of those libertarian
fantasy novels. You know the kind, Montana secedes from the US; or a
small band of people decide they won't take it any more and go off
somewhere to found their own government; or a lone rebel plots to take
down the system by finding and eliminating the few key people who keep
it going, etc. I've taken to calling it "LibFic". So I thought this
would be more of the same: a book from a fellow libertarian blogger
whom I've had on my blogroll almost since I started this, and a book
that was in a niche - a very narrow niche - that I like.

Turns out that it was a pretty mainstream corporate espionage novel,
complete with a murder to be solved, a young, attractive and competent
protagonist, and more than one opening for a sequel. It fits the genre
that is popular today, (with dramatic but generic names like "Malice of
Intent"), and as such is entertainment, not great literature. But it is
a good story, and while it is not overtly libertarian (seems that
Warren forgot to include the 70-page speech painfully "integrated" into
the plot that outlines his entire philosphical edifice), it does have a
refreshing libertarian sensibility that is usually absent from books in
that genre....

In the process, the book paints a picture of the media/legal/government
complex that is as damning as the portrayals of the
military/industrial complex, or the profit/oppression complex that is
usual the root of all evil. Warren pulls this off without lengthy
digressions to explain to us that this cabal exists, and why it is so
bad. Instead, he just shows it in action, and each example serves not
to "interrupt our plot for this important message", but to further the
plot and to draw the characters.

The Unrepentant Individual  (great blog name)

Pagan Vigil  (does everyone have a better blog name than mine?)

Dispatches from TJICistan (I wish he would stop making me feel guilty with his workout synopses)

 

There is also a nice 5-star review on Amazon.   You can also get a low-cost pdf version here.  And I have posted the first 8 chapters starting here.

BMOC, Chapters 5 and 6

A few days late (I usually publish on Thursday night) here are chapters 5 and 6 of my book BMOC, available on Amazon.com and as a low-cost pdfChapters 1 and 2 are hereChapters 3 and 4 are hereAll chapters are indexed here.

chapter five

"Tell me, Mr.
Marsh, what does BMOC do?"

Continue reading ‘BMOC, Chapters 5 and 6’ »