Monday, January 6, 2014

Changing the way nonprofits ask for money...

You may have heard about the untimely demise of the Fast and Furious actor Paul Walker recently. Paul died in a horrific car crash after returning from an event related to his nonprofit organization Reach Out WorldWide.

From what I read online Paul was a great guy -- he anonymously paid for engagement ring for a war veteran and then founding Reach Out Worldwide to help people that have been affected with a natural disaster. I was moved by his efforts and was about to donate money to his charity when I came across following statistic -- only 35 cents on the dollar goes towards the cause; the rest is spent on administrative expenses and fund raising efforts. Now that didn't sit well with me. 

I suppose most people will like to donate their money to organizations where majority of the money  (preferably at least 75 cents on the dollar) towards the cause. I spent time on charity navigator to find this number for popular nonprofits that we know of and here are the results:

Charity Name                                      % of Funds going to Programs
American Red Cross                               90.7%
Livestrong Foundation                            83.5%
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society     73%
St. Judes Children's Research Hospital   70%

Reach Out WorldWide was not covered on charity navigator as of the date of publishing this blog.

If I were to guess, most if not all people do not look at such metric before donating their money.

I would like to propose a new law where any nonprofit trying to raise money online or otherwise is required to indicate roughly how much of the donation will be spent towards the cause. By doing this, the donor becomes more informed and a good side affect will be that the donation money will be channeled more towards efficient organizations.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Idea #1: Organizing Belts in a Store

(From now on, I will tag my product idea/suggestion posts with a number for easier tracking)

What do you observe about the image below? It was taken at a nearby Banana Republic store but I have found almost stores arranging the belts this way only.

Belts at a nearby Banana Republic store

Existing arrangement of belts seems to be based on the type of the belt (with the occasional misplacement done by perhaps confused customers). Now, it would be reasonable to assume that anyone shopping for belts is looking for a certain size belt only, lets say 32. Finding a 32 size belt in above arrangement is actually quite challenging. I have to reach back into the line of the belts to find a size 32 only to realize I don't like the type.

Why not organize the belts based on just the size. That way, customers only have to look through one aisle of belts and can decide which design they like. 

Now should that be extended to other items in the store: jeans/trousers/shirts etc. ?  Thinking some more on this topic, I feel that if the items are hanging in a rack with decent inter-item space (and not crammed up like what you see for items on sale), that organizing by size could be efficient.  However, if items are placed one above another on a table, then organizing by type makes most sense.

What do you think?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Web UE: Keypoint vs Ally

Thought of sharing this small observation for 2 online banking sites:

Notice the phone number listed here. However, I don't know whether
a)  this is a 24/7 line or 8-5pm line (I logged in at ~10pm PST)
b)  "Chat with us Now" is not a hyperlink... may be "Now" is a hyperlink that lights up during business hours.

However, to my surprise I called and it was picked up within 30 sec. I loved this service... but I was almost tempted to not call (remember those 

1-800 service numbers where you dial in, enter your account information, spend 5 mins and are later told that the offices are closed at this time). 

Net result.... excellent service but not so well marketed.

Now, let's take a look at another bank... Ally Bank.

Now, note what they have on their main web page

a) tells me 1-877 is 24/7 right away
b) this is best-in-class!!!  it tells me my current wait time.  Wow!

This is awesome. If you bank with Ally, there are more awesome features in their website. Now one wonders why keypoint or wells fargo or bank of america or name-your-bank website is not as awesome as that of Ally Bank....  may be because the website is the ONLY face of ally bank to its customers (Ally is an online only bank) and as such they spend more time on the website than any other bank!

I was trying to find out who created the website... was it outsourced or developed inhouse... than I though wait-a-minute, an online bank company shouldn't outsource its key component of go-to-market and lo and behold... LinkedIn indicates that they have a big UE team. No wonder... :-) 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blockbuster vs Netflix (How IMDB can help)

I have been a Netflix customer for many customers.  I am also a frustrated customer -- reason being its becoming harder and harder to find the movies that I like to watch and that have a good rating as well.  My biggest pain point is that Netflix doesn't allow me to search movies by rating. Moreover, I think their collection no longer rocks. My frustration causes me naturally to look sideways for alternatives.

Welcome Blockbuster (willing to give them another chance).

To me, collection of good movies is the top criteria but sadly there is no quick and easy way to find out which company has more collection and also that of good movies. To qualify what is a good movie, I think IMDB movie rating can serve as a good indicator. So I am trying to find out following:

1)  How many % of IMDB movies does Netflix and Blockbuster have (Coverage)
2)  How many % of IMDB movies with rating > 6 does Netflix and Blockbuster have (Good movie coverage)
3)  How many 2012 movies Netflix/Blockbuster have (New movie coverage)

Simple questions but to find the answers, I will have to resort to my favorite past time programming -- web scripting using wget/perl/grep/ etc.

Let me know what you think of this problem and if you are interested to see the results,



To find out what cell phone and what OS/browser one is using, typically one resorts to looking at the browser user-agent (check whats-my-user-agent) that the browser on the phone will send out in any web transaction, but that would require the user to do some browser activity on their phone. Note that hackers require this information to find out what viruses/malware they should throw at your phone.

Well, Apple with iOS 5 made their job a heck lot easier.

The hackers can now find that out by just sending a text message.

Welcome, iMessage.

As you may have noticed, if you send text to anyone who has iPhone and is using iOS 5, the message automatically turns "blue" indicating the message was sent using Apple's internal servers and NOT through the service provider. It also indirectly (and may be inadvertently?) informs the sender that the recipient has an iPhone with iOS 5.

Do you think this information helps hackers?  Do you think its a privacy concern? Or just a topic for someone to blog about :-)

I for one think its fodder for hackers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

People's Revolution: Why Iran failed and Why Egypt is Succeeding

Hearing dramatic events happening in Egypt, I couldn’t help but wonder why certain “people revolutions” go further than others. I was reminded of a similar revolution in Iran recently which even though seemed to be gaining momentum by the day quickly fell apart. However, protests in Egypt seem to be taking a different turn and Husni Mubarak’s position seems to be increasingly marginalized.

To come to streets despite the threat of being shot down by government-backed armed personnel takes a lot of courage... a lot. But let’s not kid ourselves. A bullet is a bullet. Initially, when people turn to streets, local law enforcement is used to contain the crowd. Now, it is reasonable to assume that the local law enforcement has strong ties with the community they operate in and as such turning guns on them is not a choice many would like to make. As such, almost in all cases military is eventually called to contain the situation – army has no local ties and all armies are trained to strictly follow orders of their superiors (As a side note, I’ve heard that in Uttar Pradesh (a State in India), if protesters belong to largely one religion (Hindus or Muslims), the policemen sent to contain them are chosen from the other religion). This is where a make or break can occur for any people’s revolution and it resides mostly on a single person – Chief of Army. If the Army Chief chooses to side with the public, then the dictator can for all practical purposes pack the bags.

A couple of years back in Iran, where protestors lay siege of Tehran disputing the election results in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won, army chose to side with the government. The threat of the bullet in that case becomes very real and sure enough the protest quickly got dismantled. Similar situation unfolded in Myanmar in 2007 when army quelled the protest by Buddhist monks (Myanmar is ruled by the army). China’s Tiananmen Square revolution was similarly silenced two decades back.

However, a different situation emerged in Thailand few years back when protestors took siege of Bangkok International Airport against the policies of ruling government. The protest apparently had the blessings of the King of Thailand, most revered person in Thailand. As such, the army didn’t use a heavy hand in stopping the protest and eventually the Prime Minister of Thailand had to resign. I am seeing a similar situation unfold in Egypt where army seems to be taking more of an observer role rather than dealing with protestors heavily. So ultimately it boils to down one person or a group of individuals who control the army. If the generals decide that Mubarak is more of a liability then Mubarak is gone. I am sure Mubarak is anxiously waiting to know.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How to play "Are you smarter than a 5th Grader"

I have been watching this program for quite some time now and besides learning some cool basic stuff (e.g., How many states are in Mexico? I had guessed 6... but the answer is 31!!!!) I found that none of the participants played the game "strategically". My guess is if they had, their winnings would have been higher.

Let me first explain how the game show works: There are 8 questions in total, each belonging to a different subject and there are 2 questions for each grade.. see above image.

Payout is proportional to the grade level i.e.,

Each 1st grade question gives $500
Each 2nd grade question gives $1000
Each 3rd grade question gives $3500
Each 4th grade question gives $7500

Since there are 2 questions for each grade, possible winnings are $25,000 (2*(500+1000+3500+7500)).

A contestant has to answer all the questions; he/she can only choose the order of answering questions. If a contestant fails to answer any question correctly then all amount earned till that point is forfeited. And here's where a contestant needs to be smart in choosing the "right" order for picking questions.

Most of the contestants start with 1st grade questions (most easy ones) possibly to experience a good start. But strategically speaking, they should start with the hardest question (i.e. 4th grade question) FIRST so that even if they miss it, they do not lose any money they may have earned till that point had they picked the 4th grade question later. Also, since there are 2 questions for each grade, within a grade, the contestant is better off choosing the hardest subject first. With this order, I think a candidate will end up earning more (of course above logic assumes that the candidate is more likely to correctly answer lower grade questions correctly than

What do you think?