November 01, 2004

Perfect information

Today was Amazon's quarterly company meeting in Seattle. I don't go to every one, but thought I should attend this one since a team member was due to be given a Just-Do-It award. These awards are for people that go above and beyond the normal call of duty to create a solution to some problem without being asked and without asking permission - just do it. It's a really cool testament to the pervasive culture at Amazon of competency, self-reliance and taking responsibility for our company. Anyway, somebody on my team built a database viewing tool that's very easy to use to browse tables in one of our back-end services. Engineers use this when investigating production issues and many other groups have taken to using it to investigate their production issues as well. Since this browsing of SQL tables results in URLs, these links tend to make their way into email discussions, trouble tickets, bug reports, etc. The power of REST at work... gotta love it!

One of the intriguing aspects of this quarter's meeting was Bezos talking about 'perfect information' and 'transparent business'. If I understand it correctly, perfect information has to do with the inescapable flow of information and how a business should align themselves with this natural tendency rather than try to fight it. Comparison shopping is an example where consumers want to look at competitive prices and no amount of hiding the truth is going to help - somebody somewhere is going to invent a simple utility that makes it easy. There are already wireless gadgets that help you look up UPC codes on comparison shopping sites - even checking availability at Amazon - to help you make an informed buying decision. The great thing about Amazon is that we recognize that this is a Good Thing and also that we are lined up and positioned to benefit from this, while many other retailers aren't.

I didn't get the chance to ask whether 'transparent business' meant that Amazonians should open up and start blogging, but I'll just take the hint and Just Do It.

Another interesting thing coming out of this employee meeting was the kind of cool stuff Amazon is going to do over the next two months on the retail sites around the world. We've always had a creative approach to marketing. For example, rather then spend a huge chunk of cash on legacy marketing tactics - tv ads - Amazon plows that money back toward the customer via Free Shipping. Everybody I know that shops at Amazon recognizes that this is a more effective means of 'advertising' than advertising. This year Amazon has put some money into other creative forms of connecting with consumers over the Internet - not at all a 'sales/marketing' type of thing. I think people will enjoy it and hopefully there will be a lot of discussion around the Web in the weeks to come. Take a look at the site next Monday & see if it's up there yet.

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