Archive for October, 2004

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October 13, 2004

Yahoo! News – Scientists Find Protein That May Be Key to Hearing

Just some good news for those of us with hearing problems. Might not help in my lifetime, but you never know.

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October 13, 2004

I could be writing about Bill Gates right now.

However, Bill gets plenty of press (see this morning’s WSJ, for instance). Instead, I am going to write about the people to the left and right, behind and in front.

As marketing people we often develop a particular myopia, one that believes that the shortest and best path to a customer is a program of some sort we develop. From advertising to direct marketing to guerrila marketing, they all fall into the category of “good things to do to get customers to change behavior”. However, the classic tension (very real in the enterprise software space) between sales and marketing often causes marketing people to discount the impact of the people in the field that deal with the customer face to face every day. Whether they be sales, services, pre-sales, post-sales, or evangelism, these individuals are sometimes seen by marketing people as just another hurdle in the way of getting the “right” message to the customer.

Just how stupid is that perception? Stupid enough to be taught in business schools and become the battle cry of the newly minted MBA. Stupid enough to be the downfall of a number of companies that refused to see the value of the feet on the street. Stupid enough to warrant me writing this particular rant.

If you are a marketing person in a company with a field force, get to know them now. Become their friend. Share your knowledge and hope they deem you worthy of sharing theirs. Let them know you value their input on your programs and plans. Frankly, if you ever forget that they get to talk to the customer 1000x then you ever will, then you will suffer the fate you deserve.

I am surrounded at this moment by these people from the field. This is a room with thousands of customer lessons stored in these people. A marketing person couldn’t ask for much more.

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On the phone right now

October 12, 2004

On the phone right now
Originally uploaded by AtlasBrand.

My daughter just called and said “Dad, I know the conference is stressing you out. But, please remember to bring home more raisins.”

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October 12, 2004

Technology often fails when it is needed most. And, it fails in the most trivial and mundane of ways.

One of the simple things we tried to do for this event was manage all of our session moderators and notetakers online. Well, the technology failed us on that front (a combination of concurrency and lack of transactions), so I was left juggling people using paper and pen.

The lesson here is that it is not the catastrophic failures that really annoy people, it is the little things. Sometimes it is simply the failure of my laptop to boot in a timely manner in the morning. Often it is that technology fails to do what we expect it to do.

Try marketing this reality to users.

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October 12, 2004

8:20 am and we are girding for battle.

Doing marketing events is a strange and wicked art. It is a delicate balance of putting on the Academy Awards and inviting friends over for a dinner party. You have to provide the glitz, manage hundreds of people moving from place to place, yet still make everyone feel welcome and as if they are the only person that matters.

Right now I am sitting in a big auditorium waiting for things to really get rolling. Soon the controlled chaos begins. More to come.

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October 10, 2004

FronteraKitchens.com | What’s up with that Burger King ad?

Yes, I now seem to have developed a somewhat strange obsession with Burger King stories.

Anyway, I got to this story because someone came to my blog via a Yahoo! search on “burger king commercial”. Somehow it makes sense.

Mr. Bayless’ restaurant, Frontera Grill, is a delightful place to eat, and makes the absolute best Guacamole I have ever tasted. I suspect there is a Burger King nearby his restaurant as well, in case you want some fries with that.

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Sunday morning training, sugar-laden scones and co…

October 10, 2004

Sunday morning training, sugar-laden scones and coffee cake

One of the real joys of corporate life is the occasional Sunday training session that we all must endure. When your company has a widely scattered field force, it is inevitable that you will need to bring them together for the deep training and bonding experience a couple of times a year. Since you want to maximize the time involved, especially when you have paid to fly these people from around the globe, you end up with lots of weekend and evening events.

Now, I understand and embrace the value of this, but I honestly believe there is not a person in this room that would rather be in bed, at home, or at least on the front porch with a hot cup of coffee. We are all reluctant warriors in the battle for corporate supremacy. Much as Ghengis Khan’s Mongol hordes needed to pillage and sack on weekends and holidays (in fact, those were probably the best times to pillage and sack, since the enemy was likely sitting around with their coffee and Sunday paper) we must also suck it up and strap-on the armor of corporate hegemony.

So, we are here. The 100 or so people in this room probably have an average IQ of 140 (the number would be considerably higher if I stepped out of the room)and they are already deeply engaged. This is how companies in the 21st century must function. No more of the wishy-washy “Brand You” stuff of last century. Success for the new millennium is hard work, team engagement, and ultimately a battle to find the newest hill, the fresh meat.

It is 9:30, the sugar rush from the scone and coffee cake is starting to hit, and I should post this before I ramble much more.

a clue: just in the nick of time I found out what lurked behind the door.

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October 10, 2004

Sunday morning training, sugar-laden scones and coffee cake

One of the real joys of corporate life is the occasional Sunday training session that we all must endure. When your company has a widely scattered field force, it is inevitable that you will need to bring them together for the deep training and bonding experience a couple of times a year. Since you want to maximize the time involved, especially when you have paid to fly these people from around the globe, you end up with lots of weekend and evening events.

Now, I understand and embrace the value of this, but I honestly believe there is not a person in this room that would rather be in bed, at home, or at least on the front porch with a hot cup of coffee. We are all reluctant warriors in the battle for corporate supremacy. Much as Ghengis Khan’s Mongol hordes needed to pillage and sack on weekends and holidays (in fact, those were probably the best times to pillage and sack, since the enemy was likely sitting around with their coffee and Sunday paper) we must also suck it up and strap-on the armor of corporate hegemony.

So, we are here. The 100 or so people in this room probably have an average IQ of 140 (the number would be considerably higher if I stepped out of the room)and they are already deeply engaged. This is how companies in the 21st century must function. No more of the wishy-washy “Brand You” stuff of last century. Success for the new millennium is hard work, team engagement, and ultimately a battle to find the newest hill, the fresh meat.

It is 9:30, the sugar rush from the scone and coffee cake is starting to hit, and I should post this before I ramble much more.

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October 8, 2004

Japanese proverbs – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This link courtesy of Screenhead. Enjoy, and Boujaku bujin!

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October 8, 2004

Internet conference recalls days of ‘lovefest’

I remember the glory days of the Internet oh so well. It was a special time in my life, a time of tremendous chaos, amazing amounts of hard work, rich rewards (sometimes), and a careless disregard for the looming risk that was always there. Most of all, however, it was a time when the unlimited potential of technology — manifested by the Internet and the World Wide Web — created a sense of mission and a sense of destiny.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been deeply involved in that crazy time, riding the waves along with everyone else. It was not even the first wave of unfettered technology investment of which I had been a part. In the early 1990s I had joined a company called Pensoft, an ISV for the PenPoint operating system being created by a company called GO. At the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s, the hottest thing in computing was “pen computing” and GO was the undisputed leader in the emerging area. GO was a company founded and staffed by gods of the software business (see Jerry Kaplan’s seminal book Startupfor the whole story). Pensoft was a brilliant little ISV started to build a “day planner” application for PenPoint, and the resulting product is still better than anything I have seen to date.

Anyway, I actually left Pensoft after a while and went to work directly for GO. It was like leaving the road crew for the Beatles to becoming the back-up drummer to the back-up drummer. I may have been a late addition, but I was part of the best band in the world. Days and nights of hard work were rewarded with the satisfaction of changing the world. Eventually it all came crashing down, as Jerry recounts in his book.

Actually, now that I am recalling this time, GO was not really my first involvement with the next big thing. In 1989, when I joined Ashton-Tate, I was working on a spreadsheet application for the newly created NeXT computer. If you don’t recall the brilliance of the NeXTStep OS, just take a look at Mac OS X today. One of the real highlights of this time, in addition to being part of a team building a great application, was the opportunity to have Steve Jobs give deliver a demo to me and a couple of other folks at the NeXT headquarters of the 2nd generation NeXT machine (the “pizza box”) and OS. If you have have seen Steve on stage, or even on screen, imagine his magnetism magnified by 1000. That moment stands out in my mind like it was yesterday. There I was, a young UI designer and product manager, meeting Steve Jobs and being overwhelmed with his brilliance and charisma. To this day, Steve is still the single most charismatic person I have ever met. For someone like me, who had used an Apple II in high school and then owned my first Mac in 1984, it was an amazing experience. It solidified my belief in the future as a better place, and in technology as the holy grail that will lead us to that future.

From that time in the NeXT headquarters, to working with Jerry Kaplan and Robert Carr at GO, to working at Oracle, technology was moving the world ahead and making it better. In 1996, after 2 years of real personal and professional growth at Oracle, the Internet called out to me and I was lured away to a small company called I/PRO (Internet Profiles). The story of that company is well-recounted in Robert Reid’s Architects of the Web. From there is was one great Internet company after the other for me.

Rather than rambling through my resume, however self-indulgent and fascinating it might be to me, I want to return to my original thought. If someone sees a spark, then a fire will result. The days of technology innovation are not over at all. In fact, I can feel it in the wind myself; the next great wave is about to hit. The software gods are beginning to grow restless and will send their lightning bolts down from Mount Olympus and push us into the sweet chaos that fuels innovation. Today, from my perspective inside the largest software company in the world, I see changes occurring at a macro level that will make the future, once again, brighter than the past. Somewhere out there, the Beatles are warming up and about to release their first record. The demo tape is already cut and the melody already exists in the heads of Paul and John. Listen carefully to the static between stations and you might hear it too.