Archive for November, 2006

Ebay Makes a Poor Commodities Exchange

November 29, 2006

I just bought a Sony Playstation 3 on eBay (for research! Honest!). I am not a very experienced user, so perhaps my observations will be old hat.

I have never participated in such an active market for any one item on eBay. There are currently over 15,000 new PS3 systems for sale on eBay. About 50,000 auctions have ended since the PS3 went on sale. Every few seconds, another auction ends, so there are tons of data about the market price. The problem is, the tools for looking at the data are abysmal.

There is a lot of noise in the data. Some sellers are blatantly advertising off-eBay auctions. Others are setting very high starting bids or reserve prices. Many are offering extras such as software—I even saw an auction for a PS3 plus a Nintendo Wii. EBay’s search limitations make it very difficult to filter out the noise. For example, you cannot search for completed auctions with a certain number of bids. I also don’t see a way to filter for highly rated sellers.

Is it just me, or does eBay look like a web site stuck in the 1990’s? I have heard the explanation that fanatical users scream whenever eBay tries to improve their look and feel. However, it seems to me that their core asset is just a database. Why can’t they offer the old interface to whoever wants it and a better one for everybody else?

P.S. It looks as though the market price for the PS3 is about $300 above retail. This does not bode well for the PS3, given that now is the peak buying season and there is a very real shortage of supply.

The Act at Cityside!

November 28, 2006

cityside-logo.pngThe Act is now installed at Cityside Bar and Grille in Cleveland Circle (1960 Beacon St., Brighton, Massachusetts). Cityside looks like a fun place! They have Team Trivia every Wednesday night and speed dating once a month. Um… I won’t be trying that—but the steak tips look good! 🙂

Our First Ad!

November 27, 2006

As part of our field test of The Act, we are running this advertisement in the pre-movie slide show at the Circle Cinema in Brighton, Massachusetts. We will monitor the earnings at the advertised locations to see how effective the advertisement is.


The design is Joe Calabresi‘s handiwork—proving that his talents are not limited to incredibly appealing illustrations. The photograph is by Tanit Sakakini—the photographer with the supermodel name. If you ever meet her, you will agree that she should really be working on the other side of the lens as well! 🙂

Teacher Effectiveness

November 24, 2006

This month’s Harvard Magazine has a fascinating article about teacher effectiveness.

Here’s the gist: our public education system focuses hard on pre-qualifying teachers by looking at their education, test scores, and grades. But a new study by Professor Thomas Kane shows that these are all poor predictors of how effective a teacher will be. In fact, teacher effectiveness is almost impossible to predict ahead of time—it must be measured on the job. Kane recommends that

school districts need to open the doors to a wide pool of candidates, certified or not, and then assess each teacher’s value over a three-year trial period—using not only student test scores, but also classroom observations, reviews of student work, and parent evaluations. “If we’re going to be selective,” Kane asks, “why don’t we be selective at the point where we actually have some information?”

I bet Keith Johnstone would agree.

Red Herring Article

November 22, 2006

We just got a copy of the November 6 issue of Red Herring, with a nice article about The Act! 🙂 The article is not available on Red Herring‘s web site, but we have reprinted it here on the Cecropia site.

David Kaemmer Shows his Stuff

November 20, 2006

Cecropia board member and CEO, J. David Kaemmer, competed in the Skip Barber Masters National race at Road Atlanta last weekend. Here are some photos of Dave sporting signage:



Not only has Dave invented the world’s coolest driving simulation technology, but he has also invented a way to convince his wife that he needs to spend the weekend racing! Way to go, Dave!

The Act is Back at Whiskey’s!

November 17, 2006

The Act is now on location again at Whiskey’s Smokehouse, 885 Boylston Street, Boston, Mass. (across from The Prudential Center). Whiskey’s was a great location for us back in August. It is a really fun bar, and there is always the chance of an occasional celebrity sighting. We caught Matt Damon there checking out The Act with a friend.


For a full list of locations where The Act can be found, keep checking the web site.

Napping: The Ninth Habit of Effective People

November 17, 2006

I thought it was a joke when I first saw Merlin Mann’s blog post about software that helps you take a nap to increase productivity. I mean, “ultradian rhythms?” That sounds like something out of Star Trek. But apparently, it’s for real. The software is called “Pzizz,” and thanks in part to Merlin, it’s the hottest thing since espresso.

I have downloaded a copy, but I have not yet gotten up the nerve to try it. I can’t figure out what I would put on my time sheet. 🙂

Update 11/27/2006: I tried a Pzizz nap at home this weekend and it worked great! However, I still don’t want to risk napping at work. I don’t think Starbucks has anything to worry about just yet.

Communist Manifesto Set to Animated Greats

November 16, 2006

This has been making the rounds. It is now on the technorati home page. See it while you can—I’m sure the copyright holders will have it off YouTube in no time.

Red and Blue Volunteers Needed

November 16, 2006

Laura Chasin of Public Conversations Project sent me this link about a new experiment they are running. They are managing a facilitated online dialogue between people with different political points of view. The purpose of this effort is to “reduce invective debate and [to] set the stage for the deeper dialogue [that is] so necessary to…solving the problems our nation faces.”

I participated in a different PCP dialogue (live, not online) years ago, and I have to say it was extremely rewarding. Before the dialogue, I was terribly worried about it, because I was afraid of

  • insulting someone
  • being insulted
  • losing an argument
  • getting angry
  • making someone else angry

PCP has a fascinating system for preventing all these unpleasant things from happening. Their process has its roots in family therapy.

They need several hundred volunteers to try the online experiment. Time commitment: about 2-3 hours over a period of 2 weeks.