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Comment Re:Costco (Score 2) 358

Was going to say the same thing. If you walk into a Costco, you typically have only 2 -3 choices of brands for a particular good. Sometimes no choice. But Costco has found that people typically buy more and enjoy the experience more. This is a win for everybody. The customer is happier/less stressed about their choice, Costco gets more revenue from people buying more, and Costco also can keep their costs down by simplifying their inventory. I think a key component here, though, is that Costco has done a good job of whittling down the choices for us. If I'm buying ketchup, I have a choice between the cheap store brand, Heinz. Everyone knows Heinz. It's a safe choice. In cases where there is no choice, it's always the most well known/popular brand. What I don't have to do is choose between 3 crappy or unknown brands.

Comment Re:Explain the Value (Score 1) 121

Thanks, it sounds pretty interesting. However, once again, you have started with the "How" and not with the "Why". Reading a list of specs, you are requiring the consumer to piece together on their own " I guess this one would be faster?" Don't make the consumer form those conclusions because they can't be relied upon to make them. Someone technically inclined enough probably will, but sounds like this router could bring value to more than just techies. If you said instead, "Our router allows much greater speed compared to any other router at this price point." Now you have a non-techies interest. If they ask how, then you say, "While most routers do not have a fiber connection. Ours does." The consumer says, "Oh awesome. You have the best router for the price. That translates to an awesome value for me."

Comment Explain the Value (Score 1) 121

If you want any consumers outside of tinkerers to care about open hardware, you need to explain to them what value they can get from open hardware compared to closed hardware, especially if there is a cheaper closed source option that I can reflash with open source firmware. Are there enough people out there that will both know the value and seek it out if it simply says "open hardware" somewhere in the specs without any further explanation? Maybe. You need to start with the "Why" not with the "How". The "Why" is "You can do x, y and z with our router [better|cheaper|at all|whatever], compared to other routers." The "How" is "via open hardware."

I know this may come off as "bullshit marketing speak" to some, but for me, I honestly don't know what open hardware would do for me. If your product is basically a router running DD-WRT/OpenWRT/Tomato, it better cost me no more than if I bought a Netgear and flashed it myself. If it costs more, what else am I getting other than convenience? I can't speak for everyone, but I have a feeling that those that already know that value of open hardware are also those that are very comfortable reflashing their own.

Comment Google tried failed (Score 4, Informative) 327

Google attempted something similar back in 2001. Larry Page up and fired all of his project manager (in front of all of the employees!) and left it to the engineers to form their own teams, and pretty much just manage themselves. It didn't last long. Per this article:

Page’s reorganization didn’t last long either. While some engineers thrived without supervision, problems arose. Projects that needed resources didn’t get them. Redundancy became an issue. Engineers craved feedback and wondered where their careers were headed. Eventually, Google started hiring project managers again.

This was also a big contributing factor to Page and Brin being relegated to the kids table for a while until they were mature enough to run the company on their own.

Comment Re:I doubt it (Score 1) 63

I don't think they are planning on using these on actual golf courses. As you may know, golf carts are not used exclusively for golf. Any resort, or business with a large "campus" uses them to move people and objects around. Think about something like a large movie studio with lot of enclosed acreage and lots of different buildings that people need to get to and from relatively quickly, all while navigating through tons of foot traffic and other vehicles. There are even some gated communities (and even small islands) where people get around primarily by golf cart. The nice thing about these settings is that you don't need to go very fast (e.g, all under 25 mph) so there is a much lower margin of error. Getting hit by an autonomous golf cart is much less serious than an autonomous car. This will allow them to get into real world service sooner than an autonomous road car and hopefully, provide all of the wonderful data and lessons learned to the autonomous road car effort.

Comment Re:dump trump (Score 1) 686

Regarding the anti-vaxxers, this is pretty spot on. There is definitely anti-vaxxer voters on both sides of the aisle, but I have only seen Republican politicians actually try to capitalize on it. It is interesting when you look at why each side is anti-vax:

Left: Big Pharma and evil corporations are trying to poison us in the name of bigger profits and nature is better than chemikillz! (see appeal to nature fallacy)

Right: Big Government is infringing on my freedoms by forcing me to do something I don't want to, no matter what my reason is and...government mind control conspiracy!

The Republicans are reaching out to the left saying they agree on anti-vax, and therefore their interests are aligned, but the reasons for each side's stance are very at odds. Since the left distrusts corporations, they want to increase government power to keep corporations in check. However, the right wants to reduce government power and maximize benefit of corporations.

The question then comes, why don't we see Democrats trying the same for this issue, or potentially others (and please enlighten me if they are)? It might be because Democrats have a bit of an elitist asshole image due to many Democrat politicians being highly educated and flaunting it (compared to Republicans, who may be highly educated, but are constantly trying to come off folksy and working class). I think this also reflects the values of the left. High value on education and for educations sake. See the evidence of the heavily left leaning world of academia. Really really smart and highly educated people and receiving relatively little compensation for it.

At any rate, this is just further support for my theory that the political spectrum is not a straight line (Left to Right), but more of a circle. The more extreme you get on either side, the more they seem to loop back to the same crazy.

Comment Re:Why is safety in scare quotes? (Score 1) 373

Why should people that don't drive as much subsidize those that do through road taxes?

They don't. This is what taxes on gasoline are for. It is a usage based tax, though not the most accurate when you take into account the variation in vehicle fuel economy. Every now and then you do hear someone suggest that we tax based on actual miles driven (which I'm a fan of), but never seems to get too much traction. We all pay a flat "access" fee, though.

Why should people without children at the age to attend school subsidize those that do through school taxes?

Because contributing more tax dollars to the schools can mean better schools. The better the schools, the more desireable the community. The more desireable the community, the more your property (and everyone else's in the community) is worth. The more your property is worth, the more you can directly benefit from the sale of said property. Not to mention the intangibles that come with living in a more upscale community that you might actually appreciate. I guess that's the ethical egoist's rationalization at least. "Look out for #1."

Comment Re:Precision (Score 1) 64

I agree this article was light on details and heavy on speculation. I read a more complete article yesterday regarding this. The benefit realized by 3D printing the tablet as opposed to standard tablet manufacturing is, yes, the precision dosing, but also the specific layering technique the 3D printing enables. They are able to stack alternating layers of active ingredient and inactive ingredient in a very precise fashion. This allows the drug to be dissolved and absorbed MUCH more rapidly than if it was manufactured using standard methods. Since this is for an epilipsy drug, this is a major advantage over competing drugs.

I think the more immediate changes are going to be that more and more manufacturers will take advantage of 3D printing, and not just as a way to reduce costs, but as a way to make drugs we weren't able to before. While printing custom dosages for each patient sounds great, there are still a lot of regulatory hurdles, since the majority of drugs are approved one dose at a time. There is some precedence though with things like radioactive pellets (for cancer treatment), which are often custom ordered, but those are regulated as medical devices, not pharmaceuticals. Even still, I would thing the custom dosing would really just be a range of specific dosages that a prescriber can choose from to have printed and the manufacturer would have to gain approval for each dosing and being able show clearly when and for whom each dose should be used.

Comment Re:Profits are important to allocate resources (Score 2) 93

Which is why patents need clear duration limitations...

And they do. It's 20 years from the date of filing. But you must also keep in mind that the pharmaceutical industry is a highly regulated and that the clock is ticking on your patent before you receive FDA approval to actually sell it. It can take between 8-12 years from the time you file your patent to when you can market your drug. That means that you may only have an 8 year window to recoup all of your R&D costs on that one product (and all of the the ones that failed) and turn a profit. That is why proprietary drugs can be so expensive (supply/demand and many other factors of course also comes into play). Once you hit the "patent cliff", then the generics will pounce, and begin producing and selling your product for less than it costs you to make. You have some options, though. You could compete with the generics. This is a tough one. While most will for a while, their market share will quickly erode due to the cost disadvantage until they pull out of the market altogether. But even though you have pulled out, you still need to "support" the product including any legal liability, even if the patient took the generic version. Pfizer is one of the few with the manufacturing capability (and ability to absorb losses) to actually compete on price with generics, and it was pretty groundbreaking when they did for Lipitor. You could try to get over the counter approval, but this is only an option for products that meet certain criteria and the costs to get the approval might not make sense. You will need to revise your product labels (packaging + the instructions that come with it) and get them approved (more painful than you might think) and also prove that a patient can safely self-diagnose and self-administer the product. Then there is the more controversial option, which is to request an extension of your patent or exclusivity. There are a lot of ways to extend exclusivity (which is distinct from patent), but I won't get into all of that here. For patent extension, typically a company will re-formulate the product in some way. It could be a change in dosage, it could be a new delivery system (injection -> tablets) or an "extended release" version. There is a valid argument to be made that these are simply stall tactics to milk the patent system for longer patent protection (and more profits), but they do have to be a legitimate improvement/benefit for the patient, so it does encourage some level of innovation, even if some feel it is not much.

So what I'm saying here is, patents are vital to pharmaceutical companies being able to actually make a profit on all of their hard work and there ARE limits on how long they can. Without the patent protection, I can see 2 scenarios: you could have "0 day generics", where the generic is available so quickly after a drug gets approval that the company that did all of the work of the work of identifying the compound, putting it through 3 phases of clinical trials and all of the other work necessary to gain FDA approval would be screwed. Or you would have companies treating the products as trade secrets, which would be difficult in the first place given the need for FDA approval, and likely mean no generics (and higher prices). Also, those discoveries would not be shared with the rest of the world, making it more difficult for competitors to improve upon or leverage the knowledge for something completely new.

Comment Re:Invite Only (Score 2) 359

Agreed. Google+ was launched at a perfect time to gain mass adoption. Complaints about Facebook seemed at an all time high and the "Facebook is uncool/loosing users/dead" stories seemed more frequent than usual. When everyone saw that there was an alternative that gives them better control over their posts, we were all saying "sign me up!!!". But even if you could get an account under the invitation only version, you probably didn't have any friends there. And as you said, by the time anyone could sign-up, the hype had died. They pretty much had a tiny window to get mass adoption and they blew it.

Comment Re:Boil it down to cost (Score 2) 104

This. You need to do formal business requirements gathering on what the solution should do, regardless of whether it is a custom solution or off the shelf. This is a collaborative process that you need to drive. You also need to speak their language. This is not a technical discussion, it is a list of business wants/needs. You shouldn't even call it a specification, this is before the specification. An example business requirement is, "I must be able to assign volunteers to one or more categories" or "The system must be able to generate a report showing the sign-up history of all users." Process mapping can go a long way to helping identify requirements. Talk through the process of how volunteers need to sign up, administrative activities, etc. and what a system would need to do at each point. They have been doing this process already, so it should be easy to map out. You may even identify places where the process can be improved. Once you have a requirements list, you need to have them prioritize each requirement. This is critical for you since you are trying to convince them to go off-the-shelf. Each requirement is either Must Have or Nice to have. You can do a 1-3 scale too if that works better. If those edge cases they feel aren't addressed by off the shelf solutions are Must Haves, then, and only then, do you price out a custom solution along with all of the pros/cons of doing so. The price may make them change their minds on those edge cases. If it turns out those edge cases are Nice to Have, then you have what you need. You have essentially lead them into making the decision that you want them to make.

Comment How about Employee's Spouse? (Score 1) 253

As a male, I would have loved to have this type of coverage through my employer for my spouse. When my wife and I decided to have a baby, we had to go the IVF route due to a condition my wife has. Since we knew we wanted to have a second, but the odds of doing so naturally were very low, we chose to freeze/store the extra eggs they retrieved as part of the procedure. My employer's health plan had a maximum lifetime coverage of $25,000 for fertility services, but it does not cover the cost to freeze and store eggs. Freeze and storage cost us $1200/year. When money was really tight, you really start to weigh your options as to whether you keep storing and pay that high price, or quit and free up the cash.

I think my anecdote also highlights a different use case for egg storage. While the summary, and most of the comments here focus on using the egg storage as a means of delaying having children, this can also be vital to whether you can have children at all or how many you can have. But I'm not surprised at the narrow focus of discussion. This seems to be the case with most controversial women's health issues. The birth control coverage issue I found particularly irritating. The argument was solely about whether employers should be "subsidizing a promiscuous lifestyle" yet hardly ever made mention of the fact that a large minority of women take birth control for a wide array of other reasons that are directly related to their health and well being. But that's mostly related to a woman's period, hormones and disorders/diseases that affect a woman's reproductive system and "that's totally disgusting. Shut up and go away!"

Comment cheap labor (Score 1) 236

There always seems to be a pendulum in the cheap labor vs. automation decision. When a lot of manufacturing jobs were being outsourced to China, many looked at what those jobs were and saw that they were very repetitive and low skill jobs. They would then get a puzzled look on their face. They get that a Chinese person can do the same task cheaper than an American person, but why have a person do it at all? This job is perfect for automation! The reality, though, is that many Chinese people toiling away is still cheaper than designing, building and maintaining an automated system (i.e. robot). Of course, that still didn't stop someone from trying to figure out how to automate such a task, and now the costs of automating have significantly dropped. At the same time, as the economy of China is stimulated, the quality of life and cost of living rise, so rises the wages. Automation then looks like the cost effective option. The cycle will continue with the next cheap labor market and task that is only newly and expensively automated, and so on and so forth.

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