Thursday, April 29, 2004

Tracking offshoring

That's what is doing. It seems they are tracking offshored tech jobs on a monthly basis.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Channels to your car

First it was just AM. Then it was AM/FM. Then it was . . . satellite radio? Doesn't seem like there's been too much advance here. Now it's satellite TV (for regular cars, not the big dishes you see on RV's and buses).

Tracvision, who manufacturers the low-profile dish in the link above is the first manufacturer on the market to shrink a DirecTV dish that can track the correct direction to receive a signal while driving. Delphi is working on combined antennas that will integrate AM/FM with all kinds of digital services, including satellite TV.

What satellite TV providers will bring to vehicles that satellite radio providers seem to have missed the boat on is channelized access. Currently, satellite radio providers are using all of their available bandwidth to push sound down to vehicles, leaving room for little else. Unless they perform hardware and software upgrades or reduce channels, they will never be able to offer anything but sound. Alternatively, satellite TV providers already provide satellite Internet services (though primarily to rural areas that do not have another option). One of the drawbacks up to this point has been that satellite Internet has had remarkably slow upload speeds. DirecTV is poised to launch a new product called SpaceWay that will offer upload and download speeds equal to or greater than DSL and cable modems.

Some may say that the SpaceWay service will never be able to compete with WCDMA and other high-speed wireless broadband providers. Think about this: how good is your cellular coverage everywhere you drive? That's how good your data coverage would be. So if you needed truly reliable data access in your vehicle with the only qualification being that you needed an unobstructed view of the Southern sky, would you be willing to pay more for SpaceWay?

It is certainly easy to imagine vehicles with WiFi antennas that allow you to connect to wireless hotspots, but hotspots are few and far between.

It certainly will be interesting to watch.
How to ruin a lunch with lemonade

Not because of taste. I'm sure the restaurant I ate lunch today had the best intentions with how they served my lemonade; it came with a lemon on the edge and two (tiny) black straws, as opposed to my water, which came with only one black straw. It was hot today, so I finished off my lemonade very quickly, but in order to do so, I had to remove one of the straws and the lemon (they were in the way). Apparently by removing the lemon and second straw, my empty glass of ice became an empty water glass because the bussboy filled it up with water instead of lemonade every time he came by.

What loss of productivity would the restaurant have suffered if the bussboy had stopped and asked me if I was having water before he poured? I did leave the second straw and lemon right next to the empty glass, so if that was the magic formula, the bussboy might have taken a second to notice those items which normal denote lemonade as having been in my glass at some point.

Now, I am sure when someone at the restaurant came up with the plan of a system of cues for different kinds of drinks, they may not have anticipated me deconstructing their system or maybe they assumed that the bussboy would still ask before pouring.

The biggest problem with their system may have been that I only saw the waiter when I ordered -- another waiter actually wound up bringing me my check. Perhaps the waiter would have noticed that I had an incorrect beverage and rectified the situation, while at the same time explaining the system to me.

So what's the lesson? Here goes:
If the majority of your customers are going to have the most direct interaction with the "low man on the totem pole," then the lowest person should be the best trained in customer service.
How to Get Rich

It's the title of Trump's new book. I read it and liked it.

Like most of his media ventures, there is a fair amount of shameless self-promotion, but I respect that. I loved watching how The Apprentice was a massive ad campaign for all of Trump's properties. Additionally, it was especially amusing to me that obviously Nextel was paying for product placement (did anyone else notice that they had put in the Nextel two-way DTMF noise in post production?) on The Apprentice, but Trump was doing Verizon ads.

There are useful tidbits of knowledge in this book and I did enjoy the week-in-the-life-of-Trump section, as I enjoyed a similar section in The Art of the Deal. For those of you curious about Trump's hairstyle (yes, it is hair, not a rug), there is a whole chapter on it.

The structure of the book is very much like a blog -- most of the chapters are 2-5 pages -- probably how I would go about writing a book if I had the time.

All in all, certainly worth buying.
Ritz-Carlton customer service

It's certainly the gold standard for hotel customer service, and if you've never stayed there, you have no idea what I am talking about (unless you've heard stories from friends, colleagues, or in magazines). Ritz-Carlton has one of the best customer service programs around. This month'sBusiness 2.0 has an article about Ritz Carlton customer service and the various companies that are sending their people to Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (to the tune of $2,000 per person). As is usual, the "secrets" of Ritz-Carlton's success are fairly easily duplicable by any company in any industry, but it's always the rolling out and implementation of these secrets that seem to trip people up.

Here is a brief overview of some of the main secrets:

1. Make Customer Service an Elite Club (ask the right questions when interviewing)
2. Once You Have the Right People, Indoctrinate Them (spend the on training the, Ritz-Carlton spends around $5K per employee; how much do you spend?)
3. Treat Staffers the Way They Should Treat Customers (in the words of Tom Peters: ". . . if you genuinely want to put customers first, you must put employees more first.")
4. Offer Memorable Service (complaints = opportunities; it's just that simple and just that hard)
5. Talk About Values and Stoke Enthusiasm (reinforce core values . . . daily)
6. Eschew Technology, Except Where It Improves Service (automation doesn't always equal better experiences; it's finding the perfect balance between high tech and high touch)

There's a great little blurb on the article regarding the card that each Ritz employee receives, you should check it out. One of my favorite "basics" is listed as "Basic 14" in the article:

"Use words such as 'Good Morning,' 'Certainly,' 'I'll be happy to' and 'My pleasure.' Do not use words such as 'O.K.,' 'Sure,' 'Hi/Hello,' 'Folks,' and 'No problem.'"

I've been trying to do this all day and the response it very interesting -- conversations become a bit more formal.

In the words of Tom Peters (again): "If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less than excellent work."
Why you shouldn't be scared of Gmail has an article entitled "Don't be afraid of the big bad Gmail" (yes, you will have to watch an online ad to get a free day pass to read the whole article and, no, you can't just let the ad run in a separate window, the ad requires interaction -- what a pain in the ass, but I guess that's how they make their money; although I can't tell you anything about the ad I watched except for the fact that I had to click the "next" button 3 times).

A few choice pieces from the article:

"It has a fairly effective spam filter that uses both rules-based and Bayesian filtering. I redirected much of the spam from my old mail account to Gmail, and it caught every piece of spam I threw at it. Brin says that coming down the pike will be even better filtering tools."

The span tool strength is good to know because I haven't really been using my Gmail address too much yet, primarily because I did not know the spam filter strengths.

"Like all the major free-mail services, Google is relying on ads to turn a profit. But Gmail ads are different; they aren't just appended willy-nilly to the bottom of your message (they don't show up in the body of your message at all, in fact). Gmail robots automatically scan the text of your incoming messages, and then use that information to deliver targeted ads and related links that appear next to incoming messages."

Personally, I would rather have this kind of advertising than advertising at the bottom of the e-mails I am sending to people. If the advertising is based on content in my e-mails, well, I was the one that agreed to let the spiders crawl through my e-mail.

So how do the ads work? From the article:

". . . when I added specific products or corporate names to the mix, Gmail typically homed in on them immediately. It also seemed to have a much easier time with technology-related subjects."

I have also found this to be true -- Gmail really loves corporation names (not that the ads you receive are necessarily for the corporate name in your e-mail) and really gobbles up technology topics.

Regarding the California legislation:

"When Salon posed the question of what, exactly, was wrong with this, if users knew about it beforehand, Sen. Figueroa noted that many users don't read privacy policies, and pointed out that third parties who send e-mail to Gmail users are unknowingly submitting to having their e-mail scanned."

Umm, I read the privacy agreements. I also read my credit card receipts before I sign them, although I didn't always used to. I haven't read the bible of information that my credit card company sent me regarding terms and conditions. Does that mean credit card companies should not be allowed in California because "user's don't read?"

Ok, so the main thrust of the legislation really deals with the 3rd party issue. Here's a suggestion for 3rd parties sending e-mail to Gmail users: set your spamming, I mean e-mailing engines to not send mail to * and *.* By doing this, you will be able to opt out of having your e-mail scanned.

Even better, from the article:

". . . as Sen. Figueroa herself points out, virtually every piece of e-mail sent across the Internet is already scanned by robots, be it for spam or viruses. If you have a problem with robots reading your mail -- with or without your consent -- you're going to have to go back to the U.S. Postal Service, or start encrypting everything."

This is even more confusing because is sound like Figueroa is giving ammo to her opposition. Maybe she's planning on banning virus detection and anti-spam software in California as well -- that would be a great idea.

I've said it before, but here it comes again -- Read the Gmail privacy policy. If you don't like it, don't sign up for it. You can get a free gig of e-mail at Spymac and I am sure that other services with similar or more storage will be showing up soon. If you really want non-advertising-based e-mail, pay for it. I pay a few bucks a month for my various Ureach accounts and get no ads, a unified inbox for fax, e-mail, and voicemail, and integrated spam and virus detection.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Marketing terms corrected

Seth posts on what Differentiation and Segmentation really are.

From Seth's blog:

. . . differentiation means thinking very hard about the market and your competitors and somehow making yourself different. Any rational person spending a fair amount of time with perfect information will have no trouble figuring out why you're different.

Segmentation is a variation of that, but it involves breaking the audience into pieces you invent, and then differentiating yourself for that segment.

I remember hearing these words in a marketing class in college, and I further remember very interesting talks about market segmentation. The professor said that segmentation was left to the will of the marketing person. How nice! I'll just segment the population down to a small enough pool that I know they will all buy my products. If I can't get it down to the really small pool that i want, I'll get as close as I can and then slightly differentiate myself so that people want to choose me.

How absolutely wrong! And how absolutely stupid. According to Seth, how absolutely selfish!

This reminds me of two small words an English teacher of mine used to write on people's papers: "SO WHAT?!" People really do not care about the companies that are interrupting their daily lives with advertising -- pop-up ads (solution: pop-up blockers), television commercials (solution: TiVo), magazine ads (solution: read them online), radio ads (solution: MP3 players and satellite radio), etc.

What consumers really, really want is something unique and different! We want that free prize. We want the purple cow.

There's a user's guide on how to create a free prize -- Free Prize Inside. Go buy a copy (listen, this isn't the first time I've suggested you buy this book, and note that I am not linking to Amazon from here so that I get a commission if you buy through me -- just pick up a copy, it really is that good).
A great way to refer to what the music industry is doing to itself . . .

"Music Industry Intent on Committing Hari-Kari" from the Big Picture. There's really no way to say it better!

From the post:

"After 3 years of a overpriced, recession driven, anti-competitive, alternative entertainment choice induced sales slow down, the music industry -- for a brief instance -- found religion. The industry settled many of their own litigation/criminal issues; And then, the Universal Music Group slashed prices.

What-do-ya know, sales increased!"

Add to the list above suing your own customers and not improving audio technology since the 1980's. Come on, everyone's heard of DVD-Audio and SuperAudio, but the industry's so busy suing its own customers that it's pissed off by overcharging for 1980's technology, they haven't been working on these new formats. The funny thing is that super-high-end products (at super high price points) usually sell very well because of exclusivity.

After a success in lowering CD prices, what does the industry decide to do? Raise prices for legal downloading, of course! I posted about this before.

Here's what it boils down to, according to Big Picture:

"That's one of key misunderstandings of the Music biz -- their competition is for the consumer's entertainment dollar (DVDs and Video Games) -- not one CD versus another."

Of course, what the music industry faces is what every company faces -- trying to get the consumer to spend his/her dollar with them rather than with some other entertainment source.

Big Picture has written a very succinct and easy to understand article. The only thing they did not cover is the inevitable climb in the price of concert tickets -- the industry is now trying to make up for lost CD sales by charging ever-increasing prices for bands, which translate into ever-increasing ticket prices for fans. Once again, as concert ticket prices reach the stratosphere and sports and other entertainment tickets remain the same, the music industry faces the same problem as that presented above.

As a final thought: the music industry seems to be spending no real amount of time in renewing itself. The majority of talent these days seems to be one-hit-wonders that disappear immediately following their first few tour dates. There are a precious few that make it big and appeal to a wide audience, but it is a very precious few. Meanwhile, every dollar possible is squeezed out of old acts that should not even be performing anymore (but still do because it's a pay day for them even if no one shows up).

Chris O'Donnell left a comment directing me to Mailinator, another Spam-deterrent site. I went and checked it out, and it's even cooler than my previous post on Sneakemail. Why is it better? You don't have to give Mailinator your real e-mail address. Whenever you have a form that requires an e-mail address for quick registration, you can choose whatever you want If you need to click through an e-mail to receive access to a site, Mailinator keeps e-mail for 45 minutes before deleting. There is no login and password control, simply type in the word you used before the @ sign and you can see the mail.

Potentially anyone could read your registration mail if they knew the word you used and made it within the 45 minute window, but this is somewhat unlikely. I think I'll use a combination of Mailinator and Sneakemail moving forward.

Thanks for the tip Chris!
Be careful quoting blogs

There have been quite a number of blog posts regarding this original post on Inluminent entitled "Quoteblogs vs. Linkblogs". Essentially, the author explores the difference between Quoteblogs (blogs that quote entire posts by a different author) and Linkblogs (links that point people reading the blog to the original author's work).

One of the most glaring examples of a Quoteblog, according to Inluminent, is (was) Scoble's aggregator blog in which Scoble would post content directly from MS Outlook. According to this post from Scoble, he has stopped adding content to his aggregator blog in direct response to the Inluminent post linked to above (more importantly, read this post from Scoble where his wife told him to stop).

This whole argument basically builds down to intellectual property and copyright. Luckily, there is an easy solution. If you look on the right side of my blog you will see that my blog is covered with this Creative Commons license (please click on the link so that you can see how easy and straightforward this license is).

You didn't click on it did you? That's ok, here's the important part:

"You are free:

to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
to make derivative works
to make commercial use of the work
Under the following conditions:

Attribution. You must give the original author credit.
Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.

For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the author."

This licensing scheme seems to work very well (and yes, you can customize the terms of the license to fit your personal needs) and address issues brought up in Inluminent's article. What Creative Commons does not specifically address in its licensing is e-mail content -- Scoble was specifically posting e-mail content to his aggregator blog. Furthermore, the licensing does not necessarily translate across to RSS feed readers and aggregators. So what to do?

Here are my suggestions:
1. Paste in a link to your Creative Commons license (go get one, it's free) into the bottom of each of your posts so that it is picked up in the aggregators (I'm sure there's a way to make most blogging tools automatically insert this, I'll let you know if I figure out how to make Blogger do it).

2. Put a link to a Creative Commons license in the sig of your e-mail (if anyone's doing this, please let me know).

Just my $0.02 on solutions.

I've said before that I always try to give credit where it is due. I faithfully permalink to all articles I am referring to, and really try to Trackback (even though it's a pain in the ass as a Blogger user). I always use quotation marks (and Italics), and try never to quote entire posts.

Still waiting for those universal blog referencing standards.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Taking a Step Toward Stopping Spam

One of my friends sent me a link to this, so I haven't actually been able to use it and provide you with a first hand account. However, the idea of the service provided bySneakemail 2.0 is that Sneakemail provides you with disposable e-mail addresses that you can use when registering for access to websites, purchasing things online, etc. The process is very straightforward -- simply choose a username, a password, and give Sneakemail your primary e-mail address, and they will provide you with a fake e-mail address to use in the situations mentioned above. Mail sent to the fake e-mail address gets auto-forwarded to your real e-mail address by the Sneakemail server, and replies that you send look like they come from your Sneakemail address. You can use spam filtering tools on Sneakemail if your fake address starts getting spammed, or simply abandon the fake address.

In theory everything seems worthwhile. I have signed up for an account and will let you know how it works.

My final thought (and I think this about all of these kinds of situations):

Quis custodiet istos custodes?
Who guards the guards?
In other words, beyond trusting them, what prevents Sneakemail from selling all of the original (read valuable) e-mail addresses (especially if the company is sold to, say, an online ad company)?

There have been a lot of links to the Worforce Management "A Who's Who of Gurus guide. The first one I saw today was onBrand Autopsy, so I am linking to their blog, although I also so a post about it on 800-CEO-READ blog.

Here's the issue I have with businesses that hire gurus (gurus, according to guide, can cots upwards of $100,000 per appearance) -- gurus are treated by many companies as a checklist item. When I used to consult, I always used to feel like a lot of the work we did was never really going to be implemented -- I could just envision some of the clients we worked for in their offices: "Ok, we brought in the consultants and they're done with that project. Check that box off the list. What's next?" My response always would have been (although I was never asked) -- "Perhaps the problem is that you just blew hundreds of thousands of dollars on consulting to reach a conclusion that you will never implement. This is the problem with your company."

I worry (a lot) that many companies hire gurus because it feels like it's the right thing to do (or it's on a checklist). Many companies hire gurus that teach their employees methods that the companies are never willing to implement. I wonder what kind of frustration that breeds within the employee ranks. Specifically, I wonder how much more frustration (flat-out anger) there would be if the employees sat through a guru's session knowing how much the session cost and also knowing that the new ideas represented during the session would never be implemented.

I also like Brand Autopsy's questioning how companies calculate ROI on guru sessions. If companies are just bringing in gurus to raise moral, $100K can get you private concerts by well-known performers that could have a significantly more profound impact on morale.
True Reviews of Stuff

I stumbled across this blog called silverorange stuff. It is a blog run by a company called Silverorange, and here is what that company does (from their site):

"Silverorange is a small team of web developers who produce user-focused web systems. We're driven to create systems that elegantly combine simplicity and functionality. It's what we do and it's all we do."

So what exactly are these people reviewing? Well, they're reviewing stuff.

What I love about this blog is the text reviews, for example:

"I bought a custom Timbuk2 bike messenger bag two and a half years ago so that I could bike to work and take my laptop with me. Timbuk2 offers a wide range of bags but I stuck to the classic bike messenger model. Timbuk2 bags are a little bit more expensive than similar models by companies like Crumpler but their robust construction and simple but excellent features still please me to this day."

Compared to other sites that have quick reviews of product samples that are sent to them, this blog is the real deal. Their reviews are after years of using products. It's the kind of review that you would expect to get by word of mouth from a produevangelistist, but it's on a blog. The most striking thing is that even though the company is technology-focused, they seem to be providing reviews on products that they actually use, technology or otherwise.

I look forward to further reviews from these folks.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


So it seems one of the few benefits of using Blogger is the free invitation for a Gmail account that I got for being a "frequent" Blogger user (I was kind of bummed when I saw people talking about this yesterday and hadn't seen my Gmail invitation on my Blogger login page -- I consider myself a frequent blogger).

Now I have a Gmail account. It's everything that you've heard about it:
- 1000 megs (1 gig) free storage for all your e-mail (they even tell you to archive everything and not delete)
- The dreaded privacy policy. Yes they are looking at all of your e-mail, but let me ask you this question -- can't your IT department look at all the e-mail you are getting on your company machine? I'm sure they can monitor your Internet usage -- you know, when you log onto your web-based mail. Granted, they're not sending you advertising based on the content (at least not yet).

- Spam controls are included. Because I literally just opened the account 2 minutes ago, the only e-mail I've received has been the welcome note from the Gmail team, so I can't really tell you how well the spam filter works, but I'll keep you posted.

- Unique labeling and starring tags for messages to "make them easier to find" (at least in the case of the stars) and to organize them in an easier way in the case of the labels.

- Search. This is where the thing really shines. The search interface is more intuitive than the X1 interface. And because the storage space of my inbox (don't think of the inbox as an Outlook PST, think of it as your inbox at work having a 1 gig storage limit -- the difference being that your inbox is stored server-side, while your PST is stored to your hard drive) is 1 gig, I don't need special software like X1 to search through all my PST files. The only difference between this and X1 is that there does not seem to be the ability to search text inside attachments (although I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard for the Gmail people to implement).

- There does not seem to be a way to import all of my Outlook contacts into Gmail. Now what would be really cool was if Gmail interfaced with my contacts in Plaxo because my Plaxo contacts are constantly updated from my Outlook address book. In this way, Gmail would be my mail service (it appears they're pretty good at doing that) and Plaxo would be my contact manager (and I know that they're really good at that). Just an idea.

- There is not integration with my Blogger account. For example, there is no option for me to move over into Blogger from Gmail or vice versa. I figure if you've authenticated me once, maybe you can give me access to both? Maybe not. Also, it would be kind of cool to be able to post e-mail content directly to my Blogger blog. Sort of like this product that allows direct posting from Outlook (Socble uses it, you can see his Outlook blog here), but completely web-based.

- The conversation threading seems pretty cool. If you open one message, it will display the entire series of replies to the message as a conversation. The display essentially looks like a discussion group, which is very interesting. I wonder if they plan on implementing an instant messaging client (or connecting to an existing client like AIM) and allowing the conversation text to become part of the conversation -- that would be interesting.

- There's no option for me to put a Gmail icon on my Google Toolbar. What would be really cool is if I signed into Gmail in the morning and the Toolbar let me know when I had new messages, I could click a button to compose direct from the toolbar, etc. I'm sure this is coming.

As a sidebar to this post, here's a story about California Sen. Liz Figueroa who has actually introduced a bill that specifically targets Gmail service.

From the article:

"Figueroa's bill says that an e-mail or instant messaging provider can scan outgoing messages from its users, but not incoming ones. It includes a narrow exception for spam and virus filtering."

Ok, so I better never forward a message with the text of the original one included. Give me a break! Look, Gmail gave my plenty of chances to opt out of the service when I signed up. I read privacy policies (sort of) before I agree to them. I'm a grown-up and can make my own decisions, if I don't want Gmail reading through my e-mail, I'll simply have e-mail I don't want them reading sent to another address -- there are plenty of other free and pay services that do not read through your mail (of course, they also don't offer the search functionality or as much storage).

Let's be honest. Our credit card activity is tracked by credit card companies who then market directly to us and sell buying pattern data and mailing lists to marketing companies. Our magazine subscription activity and free catalog activity drives the offers we receive in the mail -- I don't remember getting chances to opt out of that (or opt into it).

Here's my simple thought: If you don't want Gmail to read your mail to produce ads that pay for the free e-mail service, don't sign up.
They need a name!

Not only does 800-CEO-READ have great business books at ridiculously low prices, they now have a Blog. However, and I agree with them, "800CEORead Blog" sounds a little flat, so they're offering a trade -- you provide them with a killer name and they'll provide you with 7 business books of your choice from their catalog. Not a bad deal!

I read over on A Penny For . . . that Todd, the author, partnered with 800-CEO-READ to make this blog happen. Good luck Todd!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Tracking people that read my blog

So a few days ago I posted that 500 unique visitors had viewed my blog from March 15 to April 15. That number was based on my counter, which tracks unique visitors that visit the blog via their browser.

I got an e-mail from Dane at Business Opportunities Weblog telling me that he reads my blog (Thanks again, Dane!), but that he read it via an aggregator, which is the same way I read most blogs. It was then that I realized that I really had no way of tracking who subscribes to my blog via the ATOM and RSS feeds that I provide.

I did some research on the web and found this post, but this seems to specifically relate to Microsoft's blogging tool. Looking on Bloglines, my aggregator, I noticed that there is a "Subscribers" link on each of the blogs that I am subscribed to. Wanting to experiment with this, I looked at my own blog (yes, I subscribe to my own blog so that I can see how things look when they come across the feed), clicked the "subscribers" link, and got this page in response.

There are limitations to this Bloglines tracking method, specifically:
- it only shows public blogs, so anyone that keeps their list private doesn't show up here
- it only shows Bloglines subscribers, so I am only potentially counting a small number of subscribers to my feeds

It would be interesting to see a more public implementation of the link above to the program. Or maybe I missed something in my searches -- feel free to let me know.
Is trackback dead?

Even his blog posts are ideaviruses!

The first place that I saw a reference to the Banana Guard on Seth Godin's Blog. I sure must read a lot of blogs whose authors also read Seth's blog because I could not believe the number of references to this piece of plastic that, well, protects your banana.

The interesting thing is that there are no trackbacks listed on Seth's site. Most of the sites that I saw that listed the Banana Guard had at least liked to Seth's blogs (although some sites were showcasing the Banana Guard as an original idea, which it very well could have been). Is trackback dead? I personally enjoy taking the time (and it does take time when you're on Blogger because you have to use a third party) to trackback to certain blogs because those blogs are usually great referers.

Just to see how many people had linked to Seth's Banana Guard post, I ran this Technorati search and found that in the Technorati Cosmos there were only 3 links to the post permalink (I've read more than three posts on more than 3 different blogs that refer to Seth's post). So Technorati is a sort of useful replacement for trackback if authors aren't going to use trackback, but even Technorati's not perfect.

What to do? The real answer seems to be that there needs to be common standard that authors adhere to when referencing sources. And the easiest way to have authors follow those standards is to integrate them into blogging software and automate them as much as possible (for example, why can't I use a permalink and just have my blogging software go figure out the trackback URL and handle the trackback for me?).

Until the time of universal referencing guidelines here's a good article on plagiarism from Blog Business World.

Saw this in A Penny For and decided to join in. Is this the new way to send chain mail or is it something new . . . chain blogging? Chlogging?

In any event:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

"And the innovations you create will have a far faster (an bigger) payback than the more ordinary stuff you're spending so much time and effort on."

From, of course, Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin (ok, look, the book's sitting on my desk, I'm addicted, I keep referring to; yes, it's really that good).
Creating a better . . . chip clip?

You remember the big plastic versions of office binder clips that you used to try and keep your chips from going stale, don't you? Well, Boing Boing has a post that links through to this article about a former dot-commer that has created a better chip clip.

From the article:

"Dubbed Clip-n-Seal, it's a white plastic rod that snaps into a matching clamp, sealing plastic or paper bags."

Even more interesting is where this inventor is spending his marketing dollars:

"Much of the company's modest ad budget goes to Google, for a clickable ad that pops up when computer users type words like "bag clip" into that popular search engine."

And his promotion:

"To promote its brand, the company is also making creative use of blogs, the increasingly popular form of online journaling."

Sound like a great product, I'll pick one up whenever it finally gets into Target or the local supermarket. And I'm happy to help with your blog promotion.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Young CEO's

BusinessPundit has a brief post that links to this Forbes article that lists the youngest CEO's in America.

Being a "young" guy myself, I decided to take a look at the youngest age on the list, and found, to my extreme surprise, that the youngest person listed was 38 years old (even Michael Dell is 39)! This concerns me a lot, considering that I was planning on being at that level of position within the next 5 years.

Why is it that there are no CEO's under age 30? Is it that the Boards of these companies refuse to believe that anyone not hovering near age 40 can successfully run a business (based on relatively recent events, it's quite obvious that older CEO's certainly have enough knowledge to practice shady accounting)?

This list is just downright appalling to me. Someone tell me about a company that is/was/will take a chance on putting a young person in charge (yes, I do understand that this is from a small pool of Forbes' top 500 firms of the 2000 leading firms).

Monday, April 19, 2004

Stop clowning around

A lot of business blogs are carrying reports of Seth Godin' Fast Company article in the May 2004 issue (not yet available on line, but when it is, you will be able to access it from this table of contents. Seth's Blog explains that the editors at Fast Company refused to replace his normal stock press photo with the photo of him above with a red nose.

The red nose makes sense as this month's article directly addresses clowning around in the workplace. Consider this your executive summary (of a one-page article):

From the article . . .

Seth's 4 Traits of Clownhood:

1. Clowns ignore science. "Clowns refuse to measure their results, because measurement implies that they accept the reality of the outside world. Wishful thinking is not a replacement for the real world. Only clowns can get away with that."

2. Clowns don't plan ahead. "Clowns get big laughs from slamming into a brick wall . . ."

3. Clowns overreact to bad news (and good).

4. Clowns aren't very nice to each other. "Why is it so unusual to find a company where the boss cares for his employees?"

"If clownhood is our natural state . . . then the alternative must be the anti-clown. Success lies in rejecting your inner clown . . ."

"I think we ought to issue little red foam-rubber noses to everyone that reads . . . [Fast Company] magazine . . . whenever you're in a meeting and someone starts acting like a real clown, silently whip out the nose and put it on."

I love this article! If you love it too, go subscribe to Fast Company and go read Seth's blog. Want more information on how to change? Check out Seth's new book, Free Prize Inside. At the very least, get yourself a re foam rubber nose -- Purciful's Toys carries them in 3 sizes. And if you need an excuse other than this article to wear a nose when someone is acting like a clown, mark your calendars, the first week of August is National Clown Week.
Work your job, live where you want

Worthwhile has a great article entitled: "Losing it? Move it." Here's the meat of the article:

"Americans have a historical tradition of hitching up the wagons (station or covered) to find better work. Now that we have technology that can help loosen geographic bonds, is it time for more of us to consider hitting the road?"

Now there are a ton of comments on the Worthwhile page that I encourage you to read. However, let me give you my personal experience with this. I moved last year from a field location to our corporate offices and I didn't want to move. It had nothing to really do with comfort levels, fear of change (I had already lived where the corporate office was located and didn't particularly rate the area high on the list of places I wanted to live), or any of that -- I just genuinely liked where I lived. In an attempt to not have to move, I offered to take a 20% base salary reduction; now regardless of the amount of the base salary, 20% is a significant amount. Furthermore, I offered to continue to assist in the market I was in as well as do the new job they wanted me to do in the corporate office. I suggested that they use the first year 20% savings and purchase a video conferencing system.

They turned me down -- the job was in the location of the corporate office or was not available. I'm a fairly young guy, so the resume building of the new job was what finally tipped me into moving, but I still regret it sometimes. I am also astounded that the company was willing to hire someone at my old salary in the field office and pay me a 20% premium (plus moving expenses) to get me out to the corporate office.

In the face of "new" and continually cheaper technologies such as:
-air travel -- flights are cheap (and frequent), even at the last minute

-video conferencing -- it's cheap and getting cheaper; soon it'll be easy (and cheap) to do on cell phones

-cell phones -- cheap and getting cheaper; do you even need an office phone?

-soft phones (VOIP) -- cheap and easy to deploy; your laptop=your office phone wherever you have Internet connectivity

-wireless hotspots -- Starbucks=your office (even McDonald's has wireless Internet access)

If it was my company and my money ("act as if," right?), I never would have moved me. I would have used the money savings in the first year to pay for that videoconferencing system. I would have seen if I could have done 2 jobs for the price of one. If it was my company, I would encourage my employees to live in the lowest cost of living, highest quality of life places (and I would adjust their salaries accordingly).
Clear Channel complains about satellite radio

Slashdot had a quick post on this article regarding Clear Channel's complaints about XM and Sirius satellite radio services.

Apparently the issue is that

"Both XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. now offer traffic and weather for several cities on its national service . . ."

And Clear Channel takes issue with this because

"This foray into local content is directly contrary to ... repeated and express promises that satellite radio service would be limited to delivering national programming to serve the unserved and underserved . . ."

This seems a little ironic to me, considering the lawsuit being brought against Clear Channel Entertainment by Colorado Concert Promoter Nobody in Particular Presents. According to this article in the Denver Rocky Mountain News, this is a quote from a Clear Channel station exec regarding a competing radio station and concert promoter:

"Let's crush the Hawk and (House of Blues) on this show . . . hope you toe the line," stated a memorandum subpoenaed from Clear Channel's files. "Do not give free impressions to this Hawk festival on any of your stations . . . avoid accepting advertising."

Clear Channel seems far more willing to dish it out and not so happy about taking it.

What it takes to be a Fast Company

I'm sure this list has been published before, but I hadn't seen it until I read the Letter from the Editor in this month's Fast Company.

Here's the list of questions that are asked to determine whether or not a company is a Fast Company:

1. Does your company create an emotional bond with its customers?
2. Does your strategy stand out from the crowd?
3. Is your company a fun place to work--and a fun organization to do business with?
4. Are you built to change?
5. Do you embrace the value of values?
6. Are you as disciplined as you are creative?
7. Are you winning the battle for talent?
8. Do you use technology to change expectations and reshape your business?
9. Are you built for speed?
10. Have you built a company of leaders?

And in the case of this month's issue about Jet Blue, there was this eleventh question added:

11. Can you scale?

Is your company a Fast Company?
Blender's 50 Worst Bands

Blender has posted their list of the 50 worst artists in music history. Agree with their opinions or not, some of the reasons that are put forth as to why each artist is so horrible are pretty funny.

Friday, April 16, 2004

How can you say it's hard to come up with new ideas?

I found this picture and article on Like many of us, the author of this blog is frustrated with people that use telephone headsets to have a phone conversation, making it appear to most of us that they are talking to themselves. Normally the tell-tale sign is the goofy wire that's hanging from their ear into their pocket, but the author of this blog is specifically frustrated by wireless Bluetooth headsets that may be harder to detect. The solution? A Bluetooth-enabled parrot that carries on the other half of the conversation (the part that us bystanders are not normally able to hear).

Apparently the author did a Google search for such a device and couldn't find it, so I guess this is a free idea for anyone to reach out and grab.
My final word on Maybach advertising

Ok, so I found a few final details about Maybach advertising at, and wanted to share them because they are really quite extraordinary (how could your company do something similar?).

From the link above:

"The potential buyers will receive, hand-delivered, a quality $50 coffee-table book detailing the car's history and brief details of the new model.
It is the first phase of an intensive direct-marketing campaign, according to Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman Toni Andreevski.

"We've gone for a personalised focus rather than mainstream advertising," he said.

Later next month, the country's top 160 individuals, identified through the BRW Rich 200 list will get the same coffee-table book but it will be presented in a hand-crafted high-gloss timber box worth about $300 and personalised with the potential customer's name in brass on the lid."

Also from the link above (this is where the "studio" comes from):

"Once a customer contacts the company for more information, he/she is assigned a personal liaison to help with the transaction. There are two options for actually ordering a vehicle:

You can travel to the Maybach Studio in Sindelfingen, Germany.

You can visit select Mercedes-Benz dealers that have a Maybach sales center on-site. "

Here's something else pretty cool (and, hey, it continues to get cheaper and cheaper):

"With its stylish architecture and exclusive furnishings, featuring cutting-edge communications technology, the Maybach Studio reflects the fascinating world of the luxury brand - a world that can also be experienced by customers unable to visit the studio in person: Thanks to video conferencing technology, they can directly address staff in Sindelfingen from any Maybach Sales Center in the world should they have questions regarding the purchase and equipping of their high-end luxury sedan."

More info about the Maybach commissioning process here from Road&

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Let's talk a little bit more about Maybach

Maybach is the ultra-premium Mercedes Benz. It is a handmade automobile that marries handcrafted components and exteriors to state-of-the-art technologies. The vehicle costs in the neighborhood of $385,000.00, so it is certainly not for everyone; it is a rolling status symbol.

What interests me is the language used on the Maybach site. Consider these:

- "Maybach Relationship Manager" Not a salesperson, but a relationship manager. Makes it sound like an owner is building a relationship, not just buying a car. The last person you bought a car from . . . realtionship manager or salesperson? I'd be willing to bet that Maybach owners receive frequent calls from their Relationship Managers; calls simply checking in, reminding them about oil changes, etc. How hard would it be for your Ford dealership to do that?

- "Locate a Studio" Ok, I was impressed with this link until I clicked through and saw that it said "Locate a Dealer." They should have stuck with the "studio" concept and used words like "curator," "display," and "exhibit."

Here is my favorite list of words on the site:

"Diversity of Styles"
"Abstract Forms"
"Avant Garde"
"de Riguer"
"Art Nouveau"

That list is a far cry from "Built Ford Tough." The company that talks about style and art winds up with a car that embodies both, while Ford winds up with solidly-built (and solid looking) cars and trucks (as Seth Godin points out in Free Prize Inside: "Apple doesn't talk about its products with the same words that Dell uses. Apple talks about user experiences and sexiness. Dell talks about speed and cost. The products they create reflect the words they use.")

Yes, this is a Daimler-Chrysler product. It doesn't seem like my Jeep dealer (and certainly not the Jeep website) have learned anything about marketing a high-end product from a brand that they already own. Oh well.
How to really market a car

If you are a luxury car manufacturer, how do you get a luxury car customer to try your brand? You could make your cars available to rent at companies like Hertz, but you are still making the customer pay to try. What if you provided the cars for free to luxury hotels and either let the hotel drive people around in the car or even just let your potential customer drive the car themselves?

According to this article in USATODAY, that's exactly what luxury car companies are doing at luxury hotels.

From the article:

"Luxury carmakers like the soft-sell approach that hotel settings provide. "We don't sell the car — the car sells itself," Maybach boss Killen says. Hotels like the programs because they get an enticing bauble for guests at little or no cost."

"The Mosaic Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., offers a Mercedes C-class or a Mini Cooper for $10 a night more than the $269 regular room rate."

Being a person that has certainly taken test drives at dealerships and been put off by the limited amount of time behind the wheel and the fact that the salesperson is in the car with you, just the freedom of the experience might be enough to sell me on a car. Looking at the economics, 1 television ad (interruption marketing) might cost the same as the retail cost of one car that is put a hotel. What's the difference? Well, it's the specific targeting to the perfect demographic and the opt-in (guests have to want to drive the car, it's not forced on them and it doesn't interrupt their favorite TV show). For the hotels it's a perfect free prize for their guests (even if they are charging a nominal amount -- hopefully that charge is just an insurance offset).

By the way, for those of you wondering what the uber-luxury Maybach is, just click here for a guided tour (note that Maybachs are sold in "studios," not at "dealerships").
US CEO pay gap

This is an interesting article from CBS Marketwatch regarding the increasing gap between the pay of Company CEO's and the average worker. The source of the information is Business Week's 54th Annual Executive Compensation Survey.

According to the article:

". . . CEO's of 365 major companies surveyed earned an average $155,769 a week, vs. $517 a week for the average production worker, $301 for every dollar earned by average workers."

If that concerning, perhaps we should be more concerned that, according to the article, in 2002 the ratio was $282 to $1, meaning that there was about a 7% increase last year to this year, which is far ahead of the approximate 3% cost-of-living increase.

To give you an idea of the historical increase of CEO pay, from the article:

"If the minimum wage rose as much as CEO pay over that time, it would be $15.71 an hour today, more than triple its current rate of $5.15 an hour."

So is this ok? No, it's really not. The interesting thing is that CEO's and executives are the highest-paid people in a company, but when the company needs to eliminate positions or people to save money, it is always the lower level workers that get terminated. For example, a company would rather terminate 6 $30,000 per year positions than 1 $180,000 per year executive. There are always younger, motivated, bright people that are willing to take executive and CEO positions for far less than the current people are being paid now -- always!

The oversight for these ridiculously spiralling CEO salaries lives in the boardrooms, and apparently the board members see not issue with the salaries that CEO's and executives are being paid. This begs the question of whether or not boards actually do represent the best interests of the stockholders.

Remember the question Tom Peters asked:

"Did Moses have a secret eleventh commandment that said bosses have to be paid more than the people that work for them?"
Identify songs from your cell phone

Ever heard a song on the radio, in your friend's car, etc. and really wanted to know what the song was without asking or going to the radio station's website? According to this post on MobileMag AT&T Wireless subscirbers are going to be able to do just that by dialing "#ID" on their headset. To get you addicted, the service will be free for the first few months and then will cost $0.99 per call/identification. The post says that AT&T has about 1 million songs in their database. I'll give this a try with someone's phone and let you know how it works (assuming I can find someone with AT&T service).

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

500 Visitors

Ok, I started keeping track of the number of visitors to my blog on March 15, so it's been almost a month, and I've had about 500 unique views of the page. Good to know people are looking at the page an reading what I have to say; that makes me want to keep doing what I'm doing.

If you are a frequent visitor of the page -- THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

If you are a new viewer of the page -- I HOPE YOU COME BACK AGAIN!
I have gone to RSS

Seems like a lot of people are looking for RSS site feeds (as opposed to ATOM, which is what Blogger uses). Feedster offers tools to allow you to create an RSS feed from any non-RSS capable site (or at least it seems to work well with Blogger). Simply click through the pages on the link above and paste in the small chunks of code in your template.

Happy to help if you have questions.
A9 is live

What is A9? It's the Amazon search engine, of course! > Company >Link here to find out what's new and cool about A9 -- my favorite feature (although I've been using it since it came out on Amazon) is the search-inside-the-book feature.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Improving the useful

Cool Tools had this post regarding duct tape. Apparently 3M has released clear duct tape (yes, the old stuff was grey because it was designed to be used on . . . well . . . ducts). Looking at the picture, the tape doesn't seem extraordinarily clear, but it is sure better looking than the ugly gray stuff. As a free prize to the consumer, the tape is supposed to last up to six times longer than the regular gray stuff because this tape was specifically engineered to withstand more variable temperatures and hold up to UV exposure.

Sixty feet of the stuff, according to the post, will cost you around $5 at Amazon, but I'm told it is already available Home Depot.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

More Gmail details

Dive Into Mark has this post regarding Gmail accessibility. Mark is one of the lucky ones (or not so lucky if you subscribe to what privacy advocates are saying) that has a Gmail trial account.

You should read the whole post if you're interested in details (and bugs) with Gmail, but here, from the post, are the most telling details about Gmail:

"Gmail is the least web-like web application I have ever seen. It requires both JavaScript and cookies in order to load at all. It uses frames in such a way that prevents bookmarking and breaks the back button, and frames can not be loaded in isolation because every frame relies on scripts defined in other frames. The entire application appears to have been designed to thwart reverse engineering (of the YahooPops and Hotmail Popper variety)."

What it sounds like to me is that Google really tried (and succeeded fairly well) in creating an e-mail application that happens to run through a web interface (rather than a Citrix thin client or other method). Very interesting.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Free Prize Inside

Ok, so as I stated in my previous post, I got my pre-release copy of Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin yesterday when I got home from work. I started reading it at about 7:00PM (had to put it down for The Apprentice) and finished it around 11:45PM.

This is simply an awesome book! I've said this before, but order a copy of this book now because you will not want to miss out on the cereal box packaging and Wall street Journal spoof that comes in the limited production, first-round printing.

So what's this book about? Well, what does the title make you think about? It made me immediately think about Cracker Jacks. Remember, the not-that-good caramel corn with peanuts that you really ate your way through (or if your parents weren't watching, dumped out on the counter) to get to the free prize, which was always a temporary tattoo or some other extremely low-cost free prize -- IT WAS THE FREE PRIZE THAT MADE YOU BUY THE PRODUCT!

So what, that doesn't answer the question above. Well then, here's your free prize for reading my blog. Ok, the book teaches you several things:

Number 1: Learn to sell before you learn to create. Nothing more to say about it. Seth teaches you how -- buy the book.

Number 2: Edgecraft. What is edgecraft? From the book:

"Edgecraft is a methodical, measurable process that allows individuals and teams to inexorably identify the soft innovations that live on the edges of what already exists."

What's the Edgecraft process?

"1. Find an edge -- a free prize that has been shown to make a product or service remarkable.
2. Go all the way to that edge -- as far from center as the consumers you are trying to reach dare you to go."

So you've got some valuable tools from the book. Why did I give away so much of this book? Seems like a lot of "free" information from the book, doesn't it? You could walk away from my blog and talk to people telling them that you know all about that book. I've given you just enough information to sound intelligent and pretend like you read the book. It's a little short of those business book summaries, but you could certainly have a high-level conversation.

If you want, go buy an executive book summary, although that seems like a waste of money because Seth has already written a free summary for you. But I will warn you/plead with you: THIS BOOK IS WORTHWHILE READING COVER-TO-COVER (several times). In fact, there's a great summary of the book in the book (yes, you could go read the summary of the book in the bookstore and not expend an y money, but we want Seth to continue writing amazing books, so support him, think of the rest of the book as a detailed reference manual for the summary). Or just buy the book for the cool packaging -- leave it on your desk, bring it to meetings with you, use it as inspiration.

Read the book.

E-Mail me free prizes that you've created, seen, dreamt about and I'll be happy to post all of them for everyone to read (I will ran you that you may get some editorial comments from me, but I promise that any criticism will only be constructive).
Dyson vacuum

This thing really sucks! (ok, I had to say it)

Read through Seth Godin's Free Prize Inside last night (actually I got in the mail yesterday, and stayed up until midnight reading it). Seth talks about the Dyson vacuum in his book, and as I was reading through the book, my wife was trying to figure out what vacuum she wanted to buy because we need a new one. We've got 2 enormous dogs that shed everywhere, so a vacuum that really sucks up the dog hair is a big requirement. Additionally, most of our house is hardwoods, so we want a vacuum that can handle both carpets and hardwoods and is easy to switch between the carpet and hardwood "modes."

We had seen the Dyson at Costco and were shocked by the price. However, seeing that the Dyson had gotten a mention in Seth's book, I told my wife to research it in on the Internet and see what real users had to say. She went to Amazon and Epinions and couldn't find a bad customer review -- that is what makes a vacuum worth double the price of any other vacuum. There was not a single other vacuum on either site that had no bad customer ratings. I assume that she is at Costco right now buying the vacuum.

The funny part about Dyson, according to Seth's book, is that he didn't want to getting into the business of selling vacuums. Dyson saw a problem (clogged filters, loss of suction, everything he talks about in his TV commercials) and created a solution. He tried to sell his design to all the big vacuum manufacturers and none of them were willing to buy -- Dyson's solution, while functional, was too out on the edge of the market. "Who would pay $500 for a vacuum?" is the question that must have been floating through the vacuum companys' exec's heads. The answer: everyone. The real end result, Dyson has set the gold standard for vacuums.
Blogs and business

I'm not entirely sure how I stumbled across this page, however, it has a great amount of blogs, articles, book summaries, chapter summaries, white papers, etc. about blogging and business. Also, it's a wiki, so if you have something to add to the topic, you should feel free to do so.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The record companies just really don't get it

After rounds of lawsuits and "graciously" allowing competitive pricing on online music download services, the record companies have decided to get greedy. No big surprise here, they just don't seem to understand.

This article discusses how record companies are trying to figure out ways to get the price of a downloaded song to cost $1.25-$2.49. It's funny because usually prices go down year-to-year, not up; especially when there is such an easy mechanism for obtaining the product for free.

Let's do the math here real quick: 25 million tracks in the first quarter of this year, so project that out (with no growth) to 100 million tracks this year. Assuming the record companies will be conservative and raise the price only $0.10, they stand to gross $10,000,000. Wow! That mus look really great on the screen in the board room. Unfortunately, the online downloading business is still developing and a movement upward in prices may just kill the whole industry and send consumers back to illegal trading (personal music players and digital music will increasingly more and more disruptive to traditional CD sales). Unfortunately, there is not way to quantify the loss of the online music segment, so that information does not get put up in the presentation.

The whole $0.99 per song $9.99 per album trumpeted by Apple when iTunes was released seems to have flown out the window. I downloaded the new album by Yellowcard the other day and only after I got my receipt did I realize that I had paid the full $0.99 per song (total of $12.87 for 13 songs) instead of the $9.99 for the CD. I'm glad the CD has a ton of good songs on it, and this experience will make me very conscious about costs on iTunes going forward -- you won't get one over on me again.

Some might say that iTunes is more convenient. I agree. How much is my time worth? Well, at $2.49 a song (if it gets there), my time isn't worth so much that I wouldn't burn a CD -- I do work right up the street from an Amoeba and a Borders (other people might say that the cost makes the risk of P2P less of a concern). How much is digital downloading costing record companies? Very little in infrastructure -- encode the song, send it to the digital music provider, and collect a check. The problem is that these companies still have to pay for the massive CD factories that they constructed to pump out CD's.

Let me tell you that my ceiling on songs is $0.99. If they go above that, I probably won't buy them. Or if Walmart continues to sell tracks at $0.88, I'll probably buy them there. By the way, record companies, how are you going to sell Walmart on these price increases? Isn't it Walmart that tells you what is going to be charged (and doesn't the cost of Walmart products usually drop every year)? I wonder who the largest CD retailer in the country is these days. Are you really willing to destroy the business models of your biggest champions and further alienate the very people that buy your product?
Brand Week - Question #4 . . .

. . . Does a business brand differently for women than men? If yes, how?

Answer: A business must carefully manage the perception of the brand by each sex individually -- there is rarely a one-size-fits-all branding campaign that will be effective for both sexes.

From Tom Peters' Re-Imagine!:

"American women constitute 43% of Americans with a net worth of $500,000 or more; said women significantly influence 75% of financial decisions."

Seems like a pretty big deal/awesome idea to market your brand differently to each sex. Women want to/need to/have to have an emotional connection with a brand/company/product to feel comfortable about the sale/buying experience; men do not. Is it more complex than that? Sure, there's all kinds of books about it.
Brand week question #3 . . .

. . . Do you agree with this method of brand building? Will BMW and American Express' brands benefit from producing entertainment? Why or Why Not?

Answer: Opt-in advertising is the new future of brand-building

As I have written before, increasingly TV commercials, radio commercials, etc. will become less and less effective as devices like TiVo and personal music players allow consumers to opt-out of listening commercials. Marketers will have to design advertising that compels consumers to want to watch the advertising. One way is to give away free gift, have contests, etc. The more interesting way, and the way that American Express and BMW pursued was to create compelling content that features the brand -- both companies are simply slightly ahead of their time.
Need a brand makeover?

Write to Worthwhile about why you need a "work makeover" and they're going to pick one male and one female to get a brand makeover from Tom Peters. Slight catch -- they haven't actually met with Tom to get him to agree to this, but, according to their post, they're having lunch with Tom today and are very optimistic.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Free Knowledge: Windows iPod Tech Support

I'm going to provide the solution to this problem so that it's now public knowledge since I couldn't find it for hours yesterday.

First, background on the problem:

I run out of USB ports on my laptop docking station, so I go to buy a USB hub. While at the store where I am buying the hub, they are "giving away" (by mail-in rebate) a multiple-format flash card reader, so I get one of those as well. Everything arrives, I plug in the hub, plug in my wireless keyboard, plug in the flashcard reader, and my personal server folder disappears. Why did this happen? Because the flashcard reader had overridden the drive letter designation of my mapped network drive. No big deal, I re-mapped the network drive to a different letter and re-synchronized my offline files. Two days ago I went to put some songs on my iPod and got an error message saying ""one of the usb devices attached to the computer has malfunctioned," when I plugged in the USB cable. However, iTunes still booted and I had an iPod icon called "RAID5" with no songs or playlists on it. I ejected and unplugged the iPod several times to no avail.


1. Call Apple support. THIS IS NOT THE SOLUTION. According to discussion groups, if you call Apple regarding this error message, they will tell you to send the iPod back to them.

2. Buy a firewire card. I DIDN"T TEST THIS SOLUTION. I bought the card and then realized my USB/firewire combo cord only had the firewire port so that you can charge the iPod while it is transferring data. Please read solution 5 below and why I think this firewire card solution might not work.

3. Go to Windows Update and choose the USB fix for Windows XP SP1. While probably a good idea for me to do in general, THIS DID NOT SOLVE THIS PARTICULAR PROBLEM.

4. Update the iPod firmware. I went and download the firmware update, installed it, rebooted, and the firmware update couldn't recognize my iPod. The only option available to me was "Restore," which deletes everything -- didn't want to do that. So while I did eventually wind up being able to update the firmware, THIS DOES NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

5. Look at your drive designations. Do you have a hard drive or mapped network drive occupying the "i:/" slot? If so, this is the problem. The firmware on the iPod sets its drive designation to "i:/" and for some reason, either a bug in Windows or in the Apple firmware, the drive designation is not dynamically reassigned if there is already a drive at "i:/" The consequence of this error is that the iTunes software realizes there is an iPod attached somewhere, but pulls up the hard drive or network drive name as the name of the iPod and shows no music on the drive. THE SOLUTION IS TO ENSURE THAT THE "i:/" DRIVE IS ALWAYS LEFT AVAILABLE for the use of the iPod. Once I did this, my iPod mounted with no problems, I was able to update the firmware, everything worked fine via USB. I then tested the firewire card and again had no problems, but the iPod still occupied the "i:/" designation (which is why I don't think buying a firewire card is the solution to this problem, but I can use my card for other things).

Feel free to contact me if you are having a similar problem and I'll do my best to help you out.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Brand week question #2 . . .

. . . What factors do you consider when deciding to create a new brand within an existing business?

Before answering, one of the examples that A Penny For . . . uses in this second question post is -Ted, United's low-cost arm. I followed a little bit of the marketing campaign that -Ted did in Colorado -- it involved advertising that asked "Who is -Ted?" Some of this was handed out by gentlemen on Segway scooters on the pedestrian mall, some of it ran on scoreboards at Avalanche and Nuggets games, some of it was included in newspapers, etc. People in Colorado were pretty excited an intrigued by this ad campaign and there was a lot of free media coverage for the campaign. What happened? Frontier still seems to be the low-cost carrier of choice in Colorado. I am a United frequent flier member and I have been getting lots of e-mails regarding -Ted. I never opted into receiving -Ted information, so I know United is using their database to send me these e-mails -- end result: there is no difference in my eyes between United and -Ted. If I want to fly a low-cost carrier, I would still choose Frontier because of the new planes, comfortable, seats, legroom, DirecTv. If I want to fly Business Class or First Class, I would still fly United and use my miles to upgrade or fly for free.

Ok, so this particular example seems to teach that there needs to be a true separation between the existing brand and the new brand. It would seem to me that easiest way to do that is to simply create another company (it can be wholly-owned by the parent) and not necessarily advertise it as being part of the same company -- do you really want to hear that the Kraft cheese your kids eat and the Marlboro cigarettes you don't want them to smoke are part of the same corporation? While I get why Altria may have decided to let the world in on the fact that they were parent to these two diametrically opposed brands, I think it was a poor long-term strategic move.

Take a look at Sony. When I say Sony, do you think Playstation? When I say Playstation, do you think Sony? Sony has done an excellent job spinning Playstation into its own brand by almost making Playstation a company separate from the parent. However, Sony did use its Sony brand pull to launch the Playstation product in order to enable the brand to stand on its own. It is important to note that Sony very quickly began to phase the Sony brand out of the picture once the Playstation brand had developed significant momentum.

Ok, so here's my short answer:

Clearly separate the newly developed brand from the existing brand. Do it by creating an entirely separate company/division. If you absolutely must use the parent brand to launchpad the new brand, quickly develop a unique identity for the new brand a phase the existing one out as soon as possible. It is not always the best idea to educate consumers in brand relations or parent companies. The driving decision factor is going to be the perception of the consumer.

One of the cool things about Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is the use of a softphone. A softphone is essentially just what it sounds like -- a software-driven phone. In a business environment, if your company had a VOIP system, you could be away from your desk and use a laptop or PDA anywhere there was an Internet connection to access all of your phone features using softphone software. There would be no perceptible difference to people that were calling you or to people you were calling, and all of the same features you had at your desk phone -- caller ID, voicemail, etc. -- would work on the softphone software interface.

While this sounds great for corporations that are able to afford dedicated private switches, how does a consumer get these benefits? Well, I've talked before about Vonage, a home VOIP provider (connect their box to your home high-speed connection, pay the monthly service, and make normal phone calls). Well, Vonage now offers softphone support to it subscribers. Imagine being able to go on vacation, jack into the high-speed port in your hotel room, run the softphone software on your laptop, and make calls and check voicemail without being charged the exorbitant hotel rates (anyone see the massive business model change for hotels?). Even better, imagine using your PDA at your local Starbuck's, singing onto the wireless Internet and being able to receive and make calls as if you were sitting in your home office.

Fast forward to about the middle of the summer an imagine most smartphones having WiFi access built into them, so you could run the softphone program in parallel to your regular cell service whenever you had wireless Internet connectivity; all other times, you could use your softphone software to forward your work/home number to your cell number (I would imagine that once these phones start hitting the market, someone will program some software that allows you to very easily accomplish these tasks on your smartphone).
First public 1GB e-mail box

Spymac has beat Google to market by offering not only a free 1gb e-mail box, but also 350 mb combined storage, personal blogspace, auctions, and other neat toys.

Here's the text from Spymac's site:

Spymac Mail offers several advantages over other free Internet-based email. In addition to the one-gigabyte storage increase, Spymac Mail also offers both POP3 and Webmail access to the email accounts. For those wondering why on earth they would need one gigabyte for POP3 mail, don’t despair; because IMAP mail capabilities are under development and will be available very soon. Spymac Mail does not include keyword scanning for search and has no advertising.

Note the last sentence -- that's a big deal when compared to Google.
Management philosophies from Dell

Business Week Online has a great article about Dell that exposes many of the management philosophies of the Dell organization.

Here are some of the philosophies I extracted, but you should read the article for further detail:

1. Leaders must practice transparency to their employees (there's a great book about how to do this called The transparency Edge)

2. Status quo is never good enough -- From the article: When success is achieved, it's greeted with five seconds of praise followed by five hours of postmortem on what could have been done better. Says Michael Dell: "Celebrate for a nanosecond. Then move on."

3. Deal with problems as soon as they arise -- I call it putting out trashcan fires before they become forest fires.

4. Watch every dime and turn it into a quarter; managers should be "walking databases." This is pretty simple, it's how anyone can get wealthy -- watch your costs and make your money work for you (there's a great book about this called The Richest Man in Babylon).

5. Maximize long-term profitability. From the article: That means products need to be priced low enough to induce shoppers to buy, but not so low that they cut unnecessarily into profits.

From the article: It's this combination -- reaching for the heights of perfection while burrowing down into every last data point -- that no rival has been able to imitate.

I have seen Scoble refer to Channel 9 in several of his blogs, but Jeremy over at Ensight finally posted the URL to get me there. Channel9 is different/interesting/cool because of how they are evolving the true blog experience. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, instead of blogging by writing posts, the blog posts themselves are videos.

The comments are still written (now wouldn't it be interesting if you could leave a video comment?) and people seem to be posting problems with the general site, but overall the site is worth checking out. Having been playing around with Sharepoint internally at my company, this site really looks like an extranet of a Sharepoint site, but I could be totally off-base.

Monday, April 05, 2004

My definition of brand
A Penny For . . . is running a week-long discussion on brands.

Question #1:
What is your definition of a brand? 25 words or less

Ok, here goes mine:

Brand = identity of the vision

Note that my definition is universally applicable to not only the most famous brands around, but also to the smallest brands around, including the brand called "you."
The human side of offshoring

Read this article from this month's Fast Company to get a very humanized view of offshoring from the perspective of people that have lost their jobs because their companies are off-shoring jobs.

From the article:

"Whether you believe such dislocations are ultimately good or bad, they're here, they're real, and they're happening at speeds and levels unforeseen just a few years ago."

Companies can cut 20% to 70% of their labor costs by moving jobs to low-wage nations--assuming that the work is of comparable quality.

"Equally dramatic are the displacement, downward mobility, and suffering of the people left behind. So far, at least, that enhanced productivity hasn't translated into jobs at home. Offshoring is steadily eating its way into the educated classes, both in the United States and elsewhere, affecting jobs traditionally considered secure. People whose livelihoods could now be at risk include everyone from IT experts to accountants, medical transcriptionists to customer-service representatives. "

What's the answer here? Unfortunately offshoring seem to be inevitable. The real answer is, for those of you that are bound to be effected, reinvent yourself! Pick up a copy of Tom Peters' book Re-Imagine! and read it. Focus especially on Chapter 3, entitled "White-Collar Cataclysm." Peters may not be the only one that saw this coming, but he was the first one that truly put it into perspective for me.
Blog aggregator issues

One thing that bums me out about both BlogLines and Kinja is that both of them don't show me the full feeds from some of my favorite blogs: Gizmodo and Engadget. When I say they don't show me the full post, I mean that they don't display the pictures that go with the posts (I understand that posts get truncated by the aggregators -- especially Kinja -- or by the feed settings). The best part about the new technology blogs is looking at the pictures and that part is not provided to me.

I would assume that the feed settings on the Gizmodo and Engadget sites are set up not to show the pictures so that I have to actually visit the sites. There are certainly plenty of ads on Gizmodo that fund and probably generate revenue for the publisher -- I believe Gizmodo refers to these ads as "sponsors."

Part of the reason I click through any of the links on Gizmodo is because the picture they put next to the short post is intriguing and I want to see more. If you didn't have the same kind of interest as me, you might subscribe to the Gizmodo feed in your blog aggregator, never see the picture (and not care if you didn't), and click through only on interesting posts, thereby never seeing the site advertising.

So . . . what if the blog aggregators recognized that a user was pulling a particular feed and served up the blog advertising on that feed? Make sense? For example, Mirra is advertising on Gizmodo today. I pull up the Gizmodo blog in my aggregator, get to see all the pictures with the feed, but my aggregator places some Mirra ad spots within the aggregator window only when I'm looking at the Gizmodo blog. For this service, the blog provider is charged by the aggregator some small fee (note: this will not work if the aggregators go into the advertising business for themselves).

Just a thought/free idea.
So I'm not the first to explore the idea of blogazine

Obviously, based on my earlier post, Worthwhile is actually creating an online "blogazine" (blog + magazine = blogazine; once again, I don't know if I'm the first to use this term, but it makes sense to me). Here is a post on Business Blog World entitled "From Bloggers to Magazine Columnists."

From the post:

"In fact, there could be many specialized publications, utilizing the knowledge of bloggers. An entire stable of magazines could be created.

What would be needed is a patient publisher, who can afford to wait for a market to develop. The publisher would also have to be patient as to possible advertising sales, which might be very slow in developing.

The upside for bloggers is the fact that they would be paid for their writing efforts. That in and of itself might make the concept very appealing for bloggers."

Ok, so the online blogazine is a long-term investment; that makes sense. However, if you were to simply add this as a more robust feature of a very well-known and extremely technology-embracing magazine, like Fast Company, you might be able to get it to take off faster. After all, if you look at Fast Company right now, they allow you to view all of their articles (read author posts) and search them by topic (hell, they even organize them by topic).

It would be my pleasure to write if anyone ever tries the idea out.

UPDATE: So I am definitely not the first to use the word blogazine. I re-read Seth's post above and realized that he used the word "blogozine." Not exactly the same, but perhaps I unconsciously saw it in his post when I skimmed it (of course, I'd love to think that great minds think alike).
Speaking of on-demand content . . .

Right after finishing my last post, I saw this post on Ensight about a site called Constant Content that Jeremy Wright, author of Ensight, helped develop.

The site allows you to buy or get (for free) content to use on your own site. You can download chunks of code, articles, reviews, tutorials, etc. If you author something that the site sells, you make a 50% commission.

I'll certainly be keeping my eyes on how successful this site is.
A blog by Tom Peters

Ok, it's not totally by Tom Peters, but when I was doing some searching for a blog by Tom Peters, I found Worthwhile. Tom Peters is listed as one of the authors along with a business "all-star" cast.

Seth Godin also wrote about this site, although he found it through direct referral from the publisher, so he is able to provide the following insight about the blog:

". . . this blog makes it clear that there's a big push to make online content slicker and more magazine-like."

I wonder what would happen to the magazine business if they actually went fully digital. They would certainly have to re-think their fundamental advertising strategies -- maybe users could pay more to see fewer or no ads. I could also conceive of magazines about broad topics that aggregate various articles on various different things and the user gets charged only on what they view -- perhaps the source of these articles are other blogs.

It will be interesting to see what happens and I'll certainly be keeping my eye on this blog.

For those of you that still do not believe that Google Mail is real, there are screenshots of the service at miscoranda. Miscoranda also has a fairly good explanation of the feature set to go along with the screenshots. I did see a "Spam" link on the third screenshot, but the post on Miscoranda does not address the spam blocking features.

More screenshots from Google employee Kevin Fox.

One screenshot from Jason Shellen (it's at the bottom of the post).

Friday, April 02, 2004

More specific Kinja feedback (hey, why not, someone's reading it)

So I went to use the Kinja bookmarklet to add a blog to my digest. Now when I do this with my BlogLines bookmarklet, I am redirected to the BlogLines site, where I will choose the feed I want to subscribe to , if necessary, or simply just be taken to my BlogLines list of blogs (what's annoying is that I have to use the "Back" function in my browser to get back to what I was browsing before rather than just closing the BlogLines window).

When I tried to use the Kinja bookmarklet, it must launch a window that my Google toolbar thinks is a pop-up because it gets blocked every time unless I hit the "Control" key to allow popups. The annoying thing about that is that if the site I'm on actually has popups that I want blocked, then might those get let through as well. The cool part is that the Kinja subscription opens in a separate window, so I can close it once I have added the blog and I do not have to navigate back because I never left the initial page.
How to effectively market a blog aggregator

If you're Kinja you release your product and then start reading blog entries about your product, like my post about Kinja yesterday. If you are really smart, you (or someone that you have hired) to do so) take note of what is being said and respond directly to the author either via the comments function on the blog or via e-mail.

Here is the text of an e-mail I received following my post:

Hey, interesting post, and we're looking into the OPML import issue.
Thanks for bringing the problem to our attention.

Do let us know the address of your public digest. We're going to run a
spotlight digest feature, and I'd love to include yours. We might also
develop a business topic, if there are enough sites to provide a good



That is how you service the customer, get the customer to say great things about your service, and ensure that the customer returns to do business with you. And hey, I get the free prize of possibly having my digest "spotlighted" on the site.

Job well done!
Do you want to own or rent your music?

Microsoft is developing technology called "Janus", according to this article, that will allow customers to put subscription-based music onto their portable music players. Janus essentially is supposed to be a secure "stopwatch" that causes music to expire after the subscription period has ended.

Assuming that the software works and his hack-proof to the point of satisfying the RIAA and the subscription providers (like Napster), the focus then switches to the consumer -- does the consumer want to rent or own the music? Steve Jobs of Apple continues to maintain that consumers want to own their music, not rent it. The popularity of P2P and services like the iTunes Music Store seem to bear out this theory, but, to be fair, there is no real way to get subscription music onto portable players at this time.

What's in it for Microsoft? Well, it's rumored that MS is going to be opening its own music store in August and this software would allow them to reliably support both a purchase and a subscription option for their customers. Additionally, MS wants its digital rights management technology to become the defacto standard for equipment manufacturers, and adding this clock function for subscription service may certainly be a step in the right direction (you could certainly carry this forward to conceive of this type of protection for subscription-based video-on-demand services where the content might be loaded to the consumer's hard drive, but expire after the subscription period). Indeed some hardware manufacturers are already advertising their support for Janus, according to the article.