Google Finance's Best Feature Isn't AJAX

There’s much ado about Google Finance, which was launched yesterday. They’ve done the typical Google thing by adding some nice AJAX-ish UI integration (actually done in Flash).

I submit to you that an under-appreciated feature is the simple “Search” box. Yahoo Finance, CNN Money, and pretty much every other finance site out there have the obnoxious “Get Quotes” search box, which expects ticker symbols, and a “Symbol Lookup” link if you don’t know the symbol.

Google turns this on its head, with a single lookup box, and it’s amazingly accurate. Requiring 2 separate search approaches was always obtuse and unnecessary, yet it took Google to fix something that’s been broken on the web for a decade.

I wonder what other sacred cows are ripe for hamburger meat. Much like Seth Godin’s mention of the tradition of black lens caps being dethroned by a transparent lens cap with a helpful message, it’s amazing how many things could be improved by considering if there’s any good reason for the tradition.


On Career Fairs and Resumes

We had a great opportunity to attend Georgia Tech’s Spring career fair today. We were looking to fill several full-time positions as well as Summer and Fall co-op students. (If you think you’re qualified and interested, drop me a comment.)

Overall, we received 54 resumes over the course of the day. As we finished speaking to each person, we’d decide whether or not we should pursue them further, creating 2 piles of resumes.

33 resumes made the “good” pile, 21 made the “not so good” pile.

The interesting part came in a lull at the end of the day – we started looking at the resumes we received that were printed on premium paper, not just standard printer paper. Of the 13 “premium” resumes, 11 of them made the “good” pile. Both of the other two weren’t printed to align the watermark with the direction of the printing. 6 of the 11 “good” resumes were properly aligned.

The point is not that I’m some sort of resume snob. The interesting point is the correlation between quality candidates and the attention they put into their job search. Standard resume paper doesn’t indicate a bad candidate, but good paper seems to point strongly to a good candidate.

Of course since it’s possible that more bad candidates will start using good paper, we’ll stick with actually evaluating their skills, personality, and experience. I will keep monitoring this trend at future career fairs.


Do I Need Pointy Hair Now?

Good times at work – our development manager has shifted into a Chief Architect role, and I’m now the Development Manager. I still get to keep my hands in the code, but I also get the privilege of leading a fine team of developers in developing some darn cool software. One main push will be on continued improvement of our code quality and decreasing the frequency of production problems. We’ll also look for ways to improve our development process. I’ll still have thoughts to share on software development, but will also have musings on the development process. I’m quite excited.

It is a tremendous blessing to find myself in this place in my career, attaining a goal I’ve been pursuing for some time, and looking to set new goals. I can look at each career move and each non-move in my career and point to how it served a distinct purpose in bringing me to this point. From time to time, I had opportunities to leave this current job, but opted not to for a variety of reasons. Had I left, it seems unlikely I’d have been promoted to such a role so soon. With the importance of faith in my life, I give the credit to God, as I see the amazing plan of each career move up to this point playing a key role in preparing me for this time. Now I look to glorify Him by conducting my job with excellence and integrity. The boss on my desk calendar has pointy hair growing out on each side of his head. Is that a prerequisite I need to fulfill now?


Kids love the Mario pumpkin

Who knew so many kids still loved Mario? I’ve carved a Snoopy pumpkin and Buzz (Georgia Tech’s mascot) with minimal response in recent years. But this year the kids were yelling about Mario the pumpkin, as they approached our house to trick-or-treat. I’m not all that creative, I used a template to carve it, but I enjoy a good end result. Thought I’d share, and share my amazement – Mario might still be one of the most recognizable characters to kid. I figured I was just tapping the nostalgia of playing Nintendo 20 years ago, but Mario is still going strong. What other videogame character is so recognizable?

$10k Treasure Hunt in 16 Cities!

For what may be one of his biggest customers yet, Hugh McLeod seems to have momentarily shifted away from creating “global microbrands” and appears to have helped a big company, Budget Rent A Car, figure out how to use the web for lower cost, higher impact advertising.

Apparently Hugh’s doing his cartoon thing, the entire promotion is being run and spread through blogs, and pretty much conceived of and implemented by bloggers. The result? Video clues lead you to a $10k prize in 16 different cities. Too bad the closet city to me for week 1 is Orlando.


The W Hotel's un-mediocre water

Seth questions why restaurants bother to serve bland, mediocre bread/rolls, and more generally, why businesses bother to churn out “good enough” (or worse) products rather than chasing something special. Red Lobster’s cheesy rolls come to mind – they’re special. Sometimes I want to go to Red Lobster just for those biscuits.

This weekend, I’m at a conference at the W Hotel. Much like the Red Lobster biscuits, they’ve gone to great lengths to avoid being low-effort boring in any way. Some of the style here is a bit odd to me, I don’t love it, but you can tell they’ve spent time and money to really try. Rather than building a lobby that tries not to offend by looking like the least common denominator, they’ve built a lobby that will displease some people, but make raving fans out of others.
This attitude extends even to their water, pictured to the right. Look closely. Every pitcher of water on the tables here is in this unusual pitcher, with a slice of lemon, a strawberry, a slice of lime, and a sprig of mint. On a per-glass-of-water basis, does a unique pitcher cost that much more than a boring pitcher? Do a couple of pieces of fruit and mint in a pitcher really cost that much? Not at all. Do they risk alienating some folks who don’t want leaves and fruit flavor in their water? Sure. But it’s consistent. The W Hotel is proving they’d rather take risks and win fans by being distinctive than be boring and try not to offend. Good for them.

Atlanta Gas Insanity

We watched the crowds grow at the Vinings QuikTrip all of Wednesday afternoon from the office building window. A couple of major supply pipelines to Atlanta are out of commission due to the power outages in Mississippi and Louisiana, who would love to have a gas “shortage” be the worst of their problems, and so an ugly rumor started that Atlanta was going to run out of gasoline. A self-fulfilling prophecy at some gas stations. At times, the lines ran only to the edge of the parking lots, with 2 dozen or so cars waiting for their turn at the pump. At its worst, every gas station in the region become a hub for gridlock, with cars waiting in line for literally blocks to get their crack at $3/gallon gas.

In other places in Atlanta, prices reportedly crept as high as $6 a gallon. Friends had emails circulating to their entire company warning them of the supposed impending gas shortage. A frenzy of herd-mentality panic. The facts of the matter are simple – these pipelines are not the only way fuel can enter Atlanta – gas comes into Savannah’s port, and trains and trucks are able to deliver fuel as well, though at higher cost. In the absence of panic-buying, these higher cost transport alternatives will kick in and the supply chain will be uninterrupted, and prices somewhat higher.

The continued upward race of gas prices led our governor to call a “state of emergency”, threatening heavy fines to any gas station that charges more for gas than the prices they charged at mid-day today. In the very short term, this is a decent idea. Stifle the profiteering based strictly on the panic of the general public. If this cap on prices survives for more than a few days, we’ll be in real trouble. Suppliers will sell their gas on the open market in states with uncapped prices, and Georgia will see the lines and shortages of gas this country saw in the 70’s – who wants to sell gas below market rates? We need to get back to market rates soon to prevent true shortages.

As I drove past the QuikTrip again last evening around 9 PM, the prices were stripped from the sign. They’re out of gas. Closer to home, cars were still lined up down the street for gas at a BP with prices under $3/gallon. The RaceTrac across the street was sporting prices that were $0.25 higher, and it was a ghost town, as was another nearby gas station with higher prices. There may be a shortage of cheap gas, but plenty of gas for people willing to pay the premium. Time to buy a bicycle.