Random thoughts from a week filled with work on behalf of a myriad of clients:

Car mufflers: As consumers, we’ve become very particular, especially when we’re shopping online. It’s no longer enough for us to simply search for an item and find retailers from whom we can buy it. No, now we want to know do you have it in stock? And if you don’t, why did you waste my time on the search and clickthrough? Which is where inventory-driven search is beginning to emerge as a preferred strategy for online retailers. They can integrate and configure their supply chain with their online marketing engine to enable this kind of specific, fulfillment-based search. It’s also dovetailing with “long-tail searches;” the ones that say I’m looking for a Dunlop tire with this particular part number, rather than merely looking for Dunlop tires. Effective online marketers know that kind of search will be conducted by someone who’s ready to buy, and that they (the marketers) will be willing to pay more for a clickthrough based on that set of data. We’re seeing signs that more companies are moving in this direction; don’t be surprised to see additional firms adopt this kind of approach over the next 12 months.

The cloud: From my perspective, Apple’s iCloud marks the triumph of cloud computing. Keep in mind, it was the consumers, the public who drove the acceptance of things like Internet access, email and instant messaging in the workplace. Their insistance on having these tools available triumphed over the desires of IT to keep systems closed and resistant to attack and unauthorized access from the outside. With the cloud, though, companies have been debating its merits for several years: is it safe? is it reliable? Now, with millions of people setting up their iCloud accounts, they’ll experience the value and benefits of the cloud for themselves (assuming there’s no massive ongoing failure). And when they see how seamlessly it works, those firms that don’t currently use the cloud in one way or another will be under greater pressure to do so. I’ve been using cloud-based storage and GMail for several years. On my Mac; a double dose of KoolAid, please.

Pathology labs: I had no idea these guys were so busy. I was talking with a lab system out of Allentown, where they’re processing almost six million tests (of both tissue and fluid) a year. The results must be accurate, of course, but they also have to be timely; doctors need the results now. Add to that the move toward the greater use of technology in delivering health care (think Accountable Care Organizations and Electronic Medical Records systems), and you can see that the ability to not only deliver results, but to be able to analyze these massive amounts of data is paramount. Dashboarding…the ability to present key information in an easy-to-understand, and configurable manner…is hugely important to these folks. The dashboards, however, must to be simple enough to configure and read: data that’s stuck somewhere in the database does nobody any good. We’ve spoken with editors and reporters of several well-known publications about this point…I think you’ll be seeing some articles about the labs’ success shortly.

More: I got my invitation to the magicians’ convention next spring, outside of Buffalo. The convention features 200 of the finest close-up magicians in the world; an invitation is your only ticket to this event…you just can’t show up. I’m already psyched, and looking forward to it. I’m pitching a couple of reporters and producers, with the permission of the organizer: I think it would make an incredible story.