My musings on the economy, life, technology, business and things I find interesting.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Spend Way too Much Time Buying Camera's and Spaghetti Sauce

Choice Debilitates
In general making decisions is difficult, the plethora of choice available to us as consumers has a lot to do with this.  If you only had two choices your decisions would be easier.  Take medicine as an example, most people just want a single choice: the one that gets them better.  Instead the get a list of drugs/procedures with pros and cons accompanied by FDA required disclosures.

You want spaghetti, please choose from 50 pasta varieties and 100 plus sauces, and within that choose whether you want chunky, spicy, organic, high fiber, high protein, low cal, original, olive oil blend, vegetable types, cheese types, etc.  Finally when it's not perfect (as will be the case) expect to doubt whether you made the right choice in the first place.

Too much choice lowers participation: ignoring treatment, ignoring a purchase, ignoring retirement saivngs are all examples and many of them not good.


So Is Choice Bad?
The realist might argue that choice operates in an imperfect world and actually has detrimental effects on society.  The purist libertarian would argue choice is good, it's the equivalent to democratic freedom, to liberty. 

So Is Choice Good?
I would argue that in the long term choice is good as it enables change.  Both are agnostic but can definitely have negative effects.  The important question is how is the best way to handle choice.

The choice of wine at your local liqour store, or for us in Ontario:LCBO, likely has a negative effect on the enjoyment of the wine purchased by consumers, the LCBO experience has a relatively poor way of handling choice.  The reason is because choice unabated that exceeds our ability to consume allows us to envision that there is always something better.  This detracts from the wine we enjoy today.  That is you buy a wine, it's okay but you had a notion of the ultimate wine amongst 700 bottles in the store and feel you likely didn't nail it and this subtracts from your enjoyment of the wine and overall experience.

Now imagine a large wine cellar at a restaurant interfaced by a sommelier (an inspiring dude that picks wine).  Now the huge amount of choice is instantly simplified by an intermediary.  The sommelier asks what you're eating and recommends 2-3 choices for your meal, he has a conversation about the merits of each: price, acidity, body, sweetness, vintage; warm and fuzzy anticipation ensues.  You make your decision feeling confident its a great one (after all an expert picked it), you marvel at how well it pairs with the meal and you enjoy yourself amidst a perfect atmosphere.  The only difference between this and the LCBO is the environment in which the choice is handled.  In this case the choice available in the cellar was a good thing but only because an expert or a maven as Malcolm Gladwell refers to them in his book the Tipping Point told you it would be great and abstracted away all the details.

We Crave Simplicity
Humans seek experts capable of simplifying choice for them.  Most people don't like reading 30 page reviews of 10 different cars, or stock prospectuses, we can't rationally read wikipedia on a daily basis to understand the latest terms and technologies for all the things that concern our daily lives.  Trying to distill all the relevant peices of information available and rationalize them to our unique needs is not something we can do effortlessly, we have lives, families and jobs.

I Just Want Someone Else to be the Expert
Translated: people want the choice without the work, this is where experts come in.  The problem is there is no single, unbiased, rational and personalized source of information.  In fact you now have almost as much choice in opinion as you do in product.  So people are double confused.

Myself and my old business partner thought that this was a big enough and crazy enough idea to try and solve.  Alex left his job at Primal Fusion where he was head of architecture and development, I quit my current private equity work, we were joined by Mark Feeney who left Sandvine and finally and Ihab Ilyas a computer science prof at the University of Waterloo.

We Want to Make Buying Decisions Easy
All of us love photography and Alex even went semi-pro at one point (check out Alex's Photo Blog ) so we thought lets make it easy to choose the right digital camera.

Our First Shot
Let me remind you this is an alpha a very early look at our technology: we let you compare any camera that exists with any other camera and we help you understand which one is best, we try to tell you why and make it easy to understand.  One site, every camera, every comparison.

Check it Out
So go compare your favorite cameras and let us know what you think.  Knowing what to buy shouldn't be a pain it should be easy, give us your feedback on how we can improve.

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