Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ironic Band Names

A few years ago, I wrote about a trend I noticed where hardcore bands were adopting these "verb-the-noun" names en masse.

Now, I've spotted a new trend among indie bands trying to come up with the ultimate ironic band name. Many of them are trying to be funny, but mostly they are just ripping off the status of a celebrity.

Take these band names for example:

  • Gnarls Barkley
  • Ylvis
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
  • Com Truise
  • Danananaykyrod
  • Joy Orbison
  • Hoodie Allen
  • Gringo Starr
  • Ringo Deathstarr
  • Tiger & Woods
  • Andrew Jackson Jihad
  • Abraham Drinkin
  • George Moshington
This is a ridiculous trend for several reasons. First of all, it's not very original. Second, basing your band on a misspelling is a terrible way to get people to find you online in the Internet age. Third, most of them are pretty childish. Fourth, it's just piggybacking on someone else's status.

I'm not the only one who feels this way:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Myth of the Maintenance-Free Electric Car

Like it or not, the new age of electric cars is upon us. The Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, and Tesla Model S are the latest generation of pure electric vehicles to go on sale in the US.

Now I am not against the idea of electric cars. As a motoring enthusiast, my curiosity is piqued by anything with wheels and and engine, regardless of whether it runs on gasoline, diesel, propane, biofuel, electricity, or expensive champagne. However, there is one glaring inaccuracy about electric vehicles that I feel the need to correct.

I have read a great deal of news articles extolling the benefits of electric vehicles. Indeed, if you live in a city and primarily use your car for commuting, an electric car is a smart, environmentally sound, and efficient way to get around.

The part that gets me flustered is when a reporter claims that electric vehicles are "maintenance free." I can't tell you how many articles I've read that mention how the drivetrain in the Tesla Model S is so simple, it only has 3 moving parts. Buy one and all you will ever have to do is plug in the charger, right? Wrong.

While it's true that an electric car will never need to have its oil changed or a muffler replaced, there is still plenty of maintenance to be done.

Because it is still a vehicle that travels on the road, electric cars rely on rubber tires which must be rotated and kept at the proper pressure. By virtue of the fact that it has wheels, electric cars also need wheel bearings to help the car roll smoothly and brake pads to help the car stop - two more components which have a finite service life.

Electric cars have moving parts in the suspension and steering that use bushings which will, over long periods of time, wear out just like a fossil-fuel powered vehicle. Electric cars also have traditional car parts which are prone to breaking such as power windows, hinges, handles, and latches. Many of them have cabin air filters for the air conditioning system - another user-replaceable part.

Besides that, there are a number of specialty systems on an electric car which may need to be serviced. A pure electric vehicle will often rely on an electric powered blower motor for the heat and air conditioning. In the case of the Tesla Roadster, the battery pack is cooled with liquid, much like antifreeze/coolant in a traditional engine.

Again, I am not saying any of this to put down electric cars. Yes, I am aware that electric car owners will never have to get their hands dirty to change spark plugs and wires, an air filter, or engine oil. The traditional "tune up" will be a thing of the past. What I want to do is disspell the myth that by buying an electric car, you will be driving a magical "maintenance free" machine. There's still a lot to keep track of as a safe and responsible driver.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One Word Company Names

One of the most important things a company can do for itself is pick a good name. Historically, blue-chip American companies have names such as Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Mills, and IBM. Lately, I've been noticing a trend in upstart American companies: they are all picking one-word company names.

Are these new generation of entrepreneurs trying to copy the success of Apple and Google? Possibly. Here are some of the new company names I've run across lately:

Box - Secure online file storage
Bump - Media sharing for smartphones

Canary - Wireless home security system
Coin - Replace multiple credit cards with one single card
Nest - The "learning" thermostat
Paper - Digital sketch book for iPad
Simple - Personal finance software
Square - Mobile payment processing
Stripe - Web payment processing
Vine - Looping video app from Twitter

Based on these companies, I have developed a formula for people looking to launch their own one-word startup company. Follow these easy steps and you'll be on your way to startup success in no time!

1. The Name
Obviously, it has to be a one-word name.
It should not be a portmanteau or empty vessel name like Groupon or Hulu, but an everyday word from the dictionary (preferably a noun).

2. The Website
The website must look really slick. Clean design with lots of whitespace and no more than 3 colors. Bonus points if your entire website is one long scrolling page (like an Apple product page).

3. The Video
The focus of your website is to get people to watch your introductory video, which is naturally hosted on Vimeo instead of YouTube, lending credence to the far more artistic-thinking audience your company cultivates. The video should not have any spoken dialogue, but should illustrate your company's product or service through a clever sequence of shots backed by an upbeat instrumental track and some inspirational words at the end.
(The similarities between Nest, Simple and Paper's videos are stunning).

4. The Press
Your company has to be mentioned absolutely everywhere. Not in mainstream media like the New York Times or Time Magazine, but on the web! You need profiles in FastCompany, TechCrunch, Engadget, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, Reddit, and all of the lower tier websites that scrape or syndicate content from the bigger ones.

5. The App
Whether the app IS your product/service or simply facilitates one, you need a mobile app. It has to be available for both iOS and Android platforms.

6. The Business Model
The product should use the freemium model in which some of the functionality is given for free, and members can subscribe for a low monthly fee to enable complete functionality. For product based models (such as Tesla or Nest) there should be no more than 3 variations of the product. Keep it simple.

Here are some new companies I have just now invented using my own formula:

Bound - An on-demand publishing service similar to LuLu, Blurb, and others.

Chain - A social app for cyclists. Hu ge with the fixed-gear hipster crowd.

Green - Um, I don't know? Something to do with finance and smartphones...

Ink - A cloud based printing service of some sort.

Ring - A virtual telephone number service (similar to Google Voice and Skype).

Snooze - Find a hotel room from your smartphone.

Whirl - A location-based photo sharing app (FourSquare meets Instagram).