Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


I see dead people

December 9, 2012

I have reached the age where many of the celebrities, politicians and other well-known people of my youth have passed into the great beyond. This natural evolution struck me recently as I thought about the world as seen through the eyes of my 9 year old daughter. Specifically, I realized that she has no anchor (pun intended) to help her understand the events of the world.

Growing up, watching the nightly news was pretty standard for me. From Walter Cronkite to Dan Rather on CBS, and later Ted Koppel on Nightline, there is an image in my head of the voice of authority delivering the news of the day. My mental lens of history is shaped by my interaction with TV news.

Let’s just say, for the record, I watched a lot of TV growing up. I secretly believe my entire ability to deliver a sharp and funny line is due to my nightly training by Johnny Carson.

Today, the kid typically gets an hour a day of screen time. For the most part, that consists of wretched sitcoms on the Disney Channel (no more wretched, I suppose, then my watching Gomer Pyle, USMC) or animation (Phineas and Ferb is top-notch). On weekends we all get to watch competition shows on the Food Network.

There is no turning on the tube (there is no tube!) to watch the evening news because the news flows constantly through the Internet to one of the six screens I have available at any given time. It is only when major events happen that I tend to turn to MSNBC or CNN (or, if I need a laugh, to FOX News).

Back to the original point. The kid has no anchor. She is still young enough that the news is mostly irrelevant to her, but that time is quickly coming to an end. When she does get interested in the world around her, she will turn to the net just like the rest of us. The concept of a voice of authority bringing the news to her will not likely exist. Unfortunately, she will likely not know how to separate the true from the false easily either (everything on the Internet is true, right?).

I think she is missing something and that is just one instance of how all the people that shaped my sense of the world are now gone. My kid is learning comedic timing from Austin & Ally instead of Carson and McMahon. She is a digital native and the world has changed, as it always does.


What goes into a fantastic creative brief? (from Quora)

January 18, 2011

What goes into a fantastic creative brief? 28 answers on Quora

What goes into a fantastic creative brief?


Recession over?

November 29, 2010

The WSJ reports corporate profits near historic high last quarter. Did you feel it? Are you clients lining up to do business? Is your paycheck growing?

The real question we need to ask ourselves is “what next?” If the economy is on the rebound, how are we going to respond. Everyone is talking about the New Normal, a time of more conservative expectations, reduced workforce, and tight budgets — how will that impact how we strategize and execute?

You probably changed how you operated during the recession. Is that change  permanent? Can your business operate on less and do more?

Businesses face a host of challenges in this New Normal. However, it also represents a chance to gain competitive advantage and be prepared for the inevitable boom years (and the bust that always follows). Smart investments made during the slow times should pay off soon. Changes to business practices that made you more efficient can yield higher profits going forward.

Fundamentally, the smartest businesses came out of the past four years thinking and operating in a whole new fashion. It is business evolution at work – and the strongest will survive.


Social Self-Promotion

August 12, 2010

Yesterday Twitter streams everywhere were filled with an avalanche of “SXSW vote for me” requests. The infamous SXSW PanelPicker had opened up and everyone was rushing to gather votes. I know the importance of this because I was one of those people trying to drum up votes.

Please check out my most excellent proposal for a panel at SXSW Interactive.

There were almost 2400 proposals up for vote at SXSW Interactive. It is part of the community-based aspect of SXSW that the voice of the people helps determine the content of the event. This voting component accounts for 30% of the “score” for any proposal. In some ways it is a test of the speaker — generating votes is a proxy for generating attendees at their session. Full and successful sessions make SXSW better. Simple equation.

Please consider voting for my really interesting proposal, “Whatever Happened to Good Design Online” at SXSW.

Everyone involved in SXSW knows it is an event about connections. Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc are all essential elements of the experience. Making self-promotion an element of the session selection makes perfect sense to me. I think that conferences driven by the interests of the attendees are very important. I also believe that attendees should not choose all the content — sometimes they can be surprised and delighted by the unexpected. This gives SXSW an advantage over other “unconferences” where attendees choose everything.

Have you checked out my SXSW proposal? Take a look and cast your vote.

So, we all dive in and get everyone we know to cast their vote. It is a popularity contest, but all social media is a popularity contest of sorts. We put our voices out there and hope someone listens. We look for the call and response of voices from the electronic ether and feel a small sense of validation. It is the world we have created online, for better or worse.


Gold Stars

August 10, 2010

For years airlines have been working tirelessly to increase brand loyalty (create brand loyalty?) through frequent flyer programs. When the economy was booming the savvy traveler could rack up thousands of miles a month and be able to take lovely vacations at the end of the year. Businesses paid for travel and the whole “brand loyalty” aspect of the programs seemed to work. I know I certainly benefited from it.

Now we are in more austere times and smart businesses have realized that not every meeting needs to be face to face. I know that as a service provider I always look for ways to give my clients the most value for their money and conference calls beat plane trips most of the time. This has made a huge dent in the amount of travel for many of us.

Through one lens this might mean the death of any loyalty to an airline. What matters now is price. A different perspective is that every trip needs to be optimized to gain miles on a preferred carrier. I know my organization is optimizing for price. That just makes sense. The benefits of a frequent flyer program are far outweighed by the benefits of a good bottom line for the business.

So, last year I failed to achieve “gold” status on my preferred airline for the first time on almost a decade. This year will likely be the same. Am I really losing out on anything? Well, perhaps next year’s vacation will require more dollars out of pocket than miles from my account. That might make the vacation all the sweeter.

Fundamentally, that gold card when I go to the airport got me through the security line faster and made it more likely I would be in a first class seat. I miss it a little, but those perks are not really worth the savings to my clients and my business. Besides, I have a new gold card in my wallet.

Yes, I am a frequent drinker. The marketing team at Starbucks finally saw the opportunity they have been missing for years. Many of us visit Starbucks 2-3 times a week; some people go 2-3 times a day. This is real brand loyalty. It might also be “blind” brand loyalty — we are on auto-pilot as we cruise by and grab our latte each morning. However you want to define it, Starbucks has a strong hold on their customers.

The new Starbucks card program rewards frequent drinkers with a gold card after 30 visits. Every 15 visits after that you earn a free drink. There are some other benefits but they really don’t amount to much. When you present your gold card to the cashier you are treated exactly the same as every other customer — friendly and efficiently. You can’t jump to the front of the line and you don’t get to boot someone else out of the comfy chair while you drink your coffee.

What are the real benefits to me besides that free drink once a month (and a gold card with my very own name engraved upon it)? It is the “stars” you earn with each visit. This handy device for tracking your use of the card is the world’s simplest video game. I visit a store and another star drops into my cup. I can see my cup on my computer or on my iPhone through the Starbucks card app. I can also track the balance on my card. As dollars go down, stars go up. How can I minimize the amount I spend per star? Can I treat a friend to a drink just to earn another star? The gaming possibilities here are limited; and that is part of the appeal.

There are a lot of ways to win brand loyalty. The best way is to deliver an outstanding product or service to your customers at every touchpoint. But, don’t overlook the possibility of giving them a gold star for their efforts as well.


Your brand, subverted

August 9, 2010

If you think you are controlling your brand across all channels, think again. It used to be that a small number of brands (e.g., Rolex, Cartier) knew they were being counterfeited on a regular basis. A street corner scam was practically a shared joke between scam artist and victim.

Now, every brand is subject to counterfeit and exploitation. Consumers can’t tell the real from the criminal without a lot of help. How will you react? How will your brand protect itself?


Despicable Us

July 19, 2010

My girls (wife, daughter) and I went to see “Despicable Me” on Saturday. The best I can say is that it managed to keep waking me up during my nap. My 7 yr old kid, however, loved it. She loved it enough to see it again on Sunday with one of her friends. It seemed that the juvenile and sometimes bathroom humor, combined with the inexplicably idiotic “minions”, captured the hearts and minds of the little girls. Oh well, that is why there are kids movies.

Since the movie seemed intent on being loud enough to keep my slumber at bay, I did manage to pick up on some elements of the “plot”. It seems that the main character, Gru, wants to steal the moon. I can get behind grand aspirations and such, so this bit didn’t really bother me. Gru has wanted to go to the moon since he was a child, building more and more sophisticated versions of a rocket as he matures.

Late in the movie, as the rocket finally roars into space, I had my revelation. My child, and most of her generation, have no real world analogue to this fantasy trip to the moon. To them, I imagine this is the stuff of fantasy. We have all but abandoned our space program in this country and seemingly have no desire or will to revive it in the future. Our country has become Earth-bound.

When she was younger I read the kid a wonderful book about astronauts that I had purchased on a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. I tried to instill in her the wonder and hope that I had when I was a child. People actually went to the Moon when I was a child and Mars seemed just a step away. Kids dreamed of space travel because we were on a path to make it real.

I want my child to know that travel to the Moon is not just the stuff of a second-rate animated flick. It is something we once did — something that helped restore our national pride — and that we should do again. Even in the worst of economic and social times we need to dream and to achieve. We need to inspire and be inspired.

Much of the risk-taking, if it can be called that, in space travel is now being driven from the private sector. I sincerely applaud these efforts and hope they can find a viable economic model to continue their efforts. But, I don’t think that is enough. This is an opportunity for all of us to feel we can rise to the Moon and stars again. To dream.

Other countries are already investing and may soon surpass our capabilities in manned space flight. To that I say “despicable us.”


Why I Love the iPad (and it has nothing to do with Apple)

May 6, 2010

I can’t add much to the hype about the iPad going on right now, but I can add a little of my own perspective on why I love the device and everything it represents.

In 1991 I began working at a company called GO on an operating system named PenPoint. You can read about the interesting history of GO, EO, PenPoint and pen computing here:

Also the outstanding history of GO as a start-up in the book “Startup” by founder Jerry Kaplan

Jerry’s book, in particular, provides context for the quest to create a computing device that you could hold in your hands like a pad of paper and use unobtrusively. He tells the story of tossing a yellow legal pad on a table in a pitch to VCs and saying that is what he plans on building.

As part of the UI/Usability team (this was before the term “UX” was in vogue) at GO I was able to experience hands-on the wonder of people holding a computing device in their hand and using a pen to tap and write. It was truly “magical” (as is the iPad). The tablet computer broke down the walls that a keyboard and a vertical screen presented to users and made the entire experience as natural as any interaction with paper.

I believed then, as I do now, that computing devices should integrate naturally and unobtrusively into our daily lives and work. They should not put up “screens” that separate us from other people, but should slip into the quiet spaces left when people interact directly with each other. The experience of using these devices should be natural and require minimal learning on the part of the user.

The iPad is the first device to really bring all of this to life in an affordable manner. It solved the handwriting recognition problem by not trying to solve the problem at all (duh). It provides great battery life, a beautiful color screen (PenPoint was an innovator in grayscale in 1990…), always-on connectivity, and easy to acquire and install applications.

Every single thing that iPad does so well was part of the vision the team at GO and EO and all the ISVs had in mind, even of the technology was not in place to make it real. We were busy envisioning a future and then doing the best we could to turn that future into something tangible. Others, such as Microsoft, believed in the power of the pen as well and took their own path to making it real.

I love the iPad because it works as Jerry Kaplan, Robert Carr, and hundreds of others imagined a device should work. Bill Campbell, who was the CEO of GO, has been on the board of Apple for many years and a close associate of Steve Jobs. I imagine Bill smiles very fondly when he sees the iPhone and iPad and how they deliver such an amazing experience to millions of users every day.

Apple may be the only company capable of producing the iPad, but the iPad was inevitable. I love it because of what it does for me. I love it for the fact that my 7 year old daughter can pick it up and be “productive” instantly. I love it because it breaks down the barriers that laptops of silently erected in our day to day interaction.

I have waited 20 years for the iPad to become reality. It was well worth the wait.


Sample survey

February 28, 2010

Just playing with the survey tool to see how it works! Thanks

Take my survey


September 24, 2009

Today I have:
* Brought MySQL up on one of the many domains I own
* Downloaded Expression Engine
* Started searching for an IDE for Web development on the Mac
* Worried about CSS

Well, it has been a long while since I wrote a website using anything more than a bunch of pre-built templates or MS ExpressionWeb. I think it is time to start to get my hands dirty again (in my ample spare time) and build something.

My PC at home is all decked out with the latest and greatest, but now I am toting this handy MacBook Pro around everywhere and want to use it for my development. What? Run Win7 on it? Absolutely will do that in a few weeks. But, also want the experience of using the Mac as my development platform.

After a couple of months now of using Mac OS as my primary system, I have to say I am generally underwhelmed. So many years of using Windows and the amazing strength of Win7 have created a pretty strong bias in me. This is after having used a Mac as my primary home machine form about 1985 until 2005. Long time, lots of Mac OS versions.

My years at MSFT taught me, however, the power of the Windows platform. It also taught me to be patient and suffer through the quirks of Vista knowing that Win7 was on the horizon. Through the Win7 beta period it impressed me more and more, from the performance on my NetBook to the beauty on my desktop big screen monitor.

Now, a new job and a new focus have put the Mac at the center of my day to day activity. I am going to be a fully dual platform type of fellow.