Free Shipping

Free Shipping from Amazon
Smart Money is talking up free shipping in their latest issue:

Surveys suggests that many consumers are obsessed with free-shipping deals. “Fifteen percent off might be a better deal, but people prefer free shipping,” says CEO de Grandpre. The good news: It’s getting easier to get bargains.

When in doubt, remember “math is hard.” The optics of free shipping are compelling – even I get sucked in to spending “$11.43 more to get free shipping on Amazon.”

The Free Model

Last week, I blogged about Radiohead’s pay what you want release.

I’d like to explore this idea a little more deeply. After one more reference to the idea of free music, I’d like to talk about free writing.

Now it’s not surprising that Scott Ginsberg (Nametag Guy) is enthusiastic about this:

After all, positioning isn’t about MARKET share; it’s about MIND share.
Become the person people think to call before they take another step.

And it certainly isn’t surprising that Seth Godin is a huge fan of doing it this way:

A Google search finds more than 200,000 matches for the word ‘ideavirus’, which I made up. Some will ask, “how much money did you make?” And I think a better question is, “how much did it cost you?” How much did it cost you to write the most popular ebook ever and to reach those millions of people and to do a promotion that drove an expensive hardcover to #5 on Amazon and #4 in Japan and led to translation deals in dozens of countries and plenty of speaking gigs?

It cost nothing.

A different take is provided by author Jonathan Lethem, who discusses “second sourcing,” a term he has coined to denote the appropriation and reuse of intellectual property.

The dream of a perfect systematic remuneration is nonsense. I pay rent with the price my words bring when published in glossy magazines and at the same moment offer them for almost nothing to impoverished literary quarterlies, or speak them for free into the air in a radio interview. So what are they worth? What would they be worth if some future Dylan worked them into a song? Should I care to make such a thing impossible?

And then there’s another kind of writing: writing software. Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress goes even further,

“For me, open source is a moral thing. Software should be free; it’s our philosophy as a company.”

I hate it when people conflate free and open. Open source may or may not be free. Free software may or may not be open. Furthermore, although I think Matt Mullenweg is an incredible genius, but this kind of Richard Stallman-esque thinking just seems frivolous to me. Sure, it’s nice if it’s free. It’s even better if it’s open so that I can change it. But the ultimate acid test of utility is fitness for use. Does it do what I want?? If it doesn’t, who cares if it’s free! And if it does exactly what I want, why should I begrudge having to pay for it?

I mean, what’s the difference between saying, “software should be free,” and saying “massages should be free?” They both strike me as absurd.

Weekend Break: HillaryCart, Ray Guns and more


Supermarket shoppers may soon be cruising the aisles with intelligent shopping carts that warn them if they’re buying too much junk food, technology experts say.

“Are you sure you want those chips? Your ass is getting kind of fat.”

Ars Technica also covered the story.

Ray Guns

The non-lethal gun causes a “wave of agony” according to these testers.

My only disappointment was that Raytheon didn’t have a shopping cart to allow you to buy them online.

What a difference a word makes

NPR had a funny article Friday about how a one-word typo changes underage marriage in Arkansas. Sort of reminds me of the wicked Bible, which rendered the seventh commandment the way Hugh Heffner might.

Becoming a famous blogger

I have always wondered how people became famous bloggers. Apparently there are two possible routes.

Ten Principles of Economics

A brief video summary of Dr. Mankiw’s textbook.

Busy signal at Volusion

Volusion just came out with a new release of their shopping cart software. I wanted to blog about it – but I also wanted to ask them about whether bandwidth-based pricing in hosted e-commerce (which they use) is inherently misleading. Some people have reported significant surcharges for “exceeding their bandwidth allocation” – are they just anomalies? What percentage of Volusion’s clients pay an additional bandwidth charge every month? Do any users at the lowest tiers not pay surcharges? When I didn’t receive a response for five days, I thought I’d check the ticket, but found that it had been closed with no acknowledgement! When I pressed them on the issue, they deleted the ticket. It’s almost as though they’re dodging the issue. Hmm…..