BRAIN: gaypon?
SHAC: you heard me
BRAIN: why do gays need their own coupons
BRAIN: there’s a hook up app for gay men
SHAC: holy
SHAC: why didnt i think of that?
BRAIN: grindr
SHAC: i wish you had stopped short of telling me the name
BRAIN: lesbian friends complain there is no equiv for ladies
SHAC: what would you call it?
SHAC: liqr?
BRAIN: you are a marketing god
SHAC: oh man that took all the creative power out of me

Probabilistic Zelda

Are you sick of the stupid “weighing 8 objects on a scale” interview question? How about this one:

In “The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap,” Link finds a vending machine which sells figurines of all the monsters in Hyrule – these machines are called gashapon in Japanese. Link wants to collect all the monsters in the machine, which accepts the local currency, “shells.”

  • There are figurines of 136 monsters
  • a single figure costs 1 shell
  • the machine will dispense a random figure for 1 shell
  • …but the machine will only vend figures of monsters Link has seen before
  • for an additional 1 shell per purchase, Link can increase the probability of getting a figure he doesn’t already have, at a rate of 1% per shell. Link can spend an unlimited number of shells (up to 100%) per transaction.
  • Link throws away any duplicate figurines he receives

The question: describe a strategy to acquire every figure which economizes on the number of shells spent assuming there are 136 unique monsters and figures, and :

  • Link has met every monster in Hyrule before he buys any figures
  • Link has never met any monsters, but has the ability to do so in between purchases
  • Link has met N monsters, and has bought no figures
  • Link has met N monsters, and has bought M unique figures already

Strawberry ice cream and Millenial rebranding

I was just reading a great post on Millenial rebranding, and an emergent problem – many people can no longer buy “just” strawberry ice cream. It’s always some weird flavor hybrid.

Many of us have the “strawberry ice cream problem,” and frequently it’s not just about a product that is no longer popular… or imagined to be popular. How many times have you seen a film that was very very expensive, but just not that memorable? Most summer movies nowadays will never ever be someone’s “favorite movie.” The problem has to do with the conundrum of marketing to the mainstream – as pointed out in The Tipping Point, even when remarkable coffee will be tart or black or some other memorable quality, POPULAR coffee will be bland and sweet.

I think the answer is in Long Tail thinking, as a consumer – we as consumers are now expected to specialize, to search out products that match our aesthetics. Thanks to the internet, this is now not only possible but pretty convenient!

As for the actual strawberry ice cream problem – think of it as an opportunity. Other people will want strawberry ice cream near you; you can sell it to them. In the San Francisco Bay Area, we don’t have a lack of strawberry ice cream – you can get it at any ice cream shop, especially small independent shops like Fenton’s or Preston’s Candy & Ice Cream.