20 Year Reunion and Fear the Facebook Timeline

Today I learned:

1. 20 Year Reunion: The first thought to run through my head when reading an email invite for my 20 year high school reunion is “I am old.”  The second thought is “Wow. When I graduated we didn’t even have email.”  This realization in turn brings me back to the first thought.

Once that all passes I then also learned my motivation to exercise is heightened by reunion invites, even if the event is a year away. This strikes me as a potential cure to obesity. If we all woke up to a daily reminder of a high school reunion coming up I bet our health and fitness would improve. This would be an interesting experiment…

2. Facebook Timeline: After my recent hiatus from FB, I returned to the site today to check out the new timeline feature, intrigued after reading about it in a Globe and Mail article. The author – somewhat horrified with the simplicity and ease with which any of his friends could track his history on the social network – first took to culling posts. When that was deemed too time consuming he took the dramatic step of deleting his account and starting fresh.

Intrigued by the pain this caused him I activited the timeline feature on my account today to check it out.

He was right. It is a bit scary to see, all in one place every photo, comment, status update, check-in…everything on a shiny little timeline.  You can track my life since I joined the network in 2007. Or at least you can track a few important events like the birth and milestones of kids, along with a about 200 status updates that seemed funny at the time.

At least everything is relatively benign. Nothing to delete, or at least it is not worth my time to bother.

I doubt the lack of true privacy on Facebook (despite using the most restrictive settings) is going to burn me in any future job search or attempt at public office. That is, unless the reviewer attacks my judgement based on what is clearly a poor understanding of how interested people will be in how much I liked my dinner on Aug 12, 2008, or how I played golf on July 1, 2007.

I do fear for people that actually post things that could hurt them in the long run though. I certainly don’t hire anyone these days without scoping out their presence online before making an offer. If I come across a Facebook timeline in this research it will wrap everything up in a pretty little package for me.

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The Marginal Cost of Email and Price discrimination at the Parking Meter

Today I learned:

1. The marginal cost of an email is not always zero: Witty banter back and forth via email is a lot less fun when it’s a lawyer on the other end of the exchange and you know she bills you $20 every time she reads one of your messages.

This made me wonder, if I knew I was going to be invoiced $20 every time a recipient read one of my messages, how many emails would I actually send?

I am guessing a lot fewer.

So, should I build that into my decision-making criteria when determining whether or not to use email for certain types of communication?

I am guessing I should.

2. Perfect Price Discrimination for…Parking? The headline in today’s Vancouver Sun reads “Vancouver Parking rates could vary by block, month with new project.” Apparently 1500 of the city’s 10,000 meters can now have rates remotely changed.

The issue?  Not enough people are using transit, resulting in drivers parking illegally or circling around looking for spots in busy locations.

The solution? Remotely altering parking prices will allow the city to control consumption patterns with the goal of ensuring there will always be one open spot on every block. According to Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver’s director of transportation, “the reason for getting the right price is that the wrong price does so much harm.”

To that, I call bullsh*t.

This has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with revenue. In fact, the lesson I learned here is that the city is actually smart enough to notice the technology now exists to take aim at perfect price discrimination for parking spots. They understand that with a bit of effort and investment they quickly change the cost of a spot to find the right buyer and then reap the rewards. They will have a model where they can extract more of the consumer surplus available.

To be clear I have no real issue with the direction they are going with this. It is brilliant. The city deserves kudos for figuring this one out.  As a resident of Vancouver I know just how many people will be coming in from the suburbs everyday to fill the meters and in turn add to the cities coffers. I just wish they were more honest about it.