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Showing posts from 2005

Christmas Comes Early to One Writer!

Congratulations to Myfanwy Collins, an oustanding friend of mine - though I think I owe her an email or four - who just received two special mentions in the Night Train Yates Contest for her short stories. Collins is as classy as she is talented and placing two stories in this contest speaks volumes for her ability.

Creating Wealth

Steve Jobs once said that the success or failure of a startup depends on the first ten employees. I agree. If anything, it's more like the first five. Being small is not, in itself, what makes startups kick butt, but rather that small groups can be select. You don't want small in the sense of a village, but small in the sense of an all-star team.

The larger a group, the closer its average member will be to the average for the population as a whole. So all other things being equal, a very able person in a big company is probably getting a bad deal, because his performance is dragged down by the overall lower performance of the others. Of course, all other things often are not equal: the able person may not care about money, or may prefer the stability of a large company. But a very able person who does care about money will ordinarily do better to go off and work with a small group of peers.

This is like a Christmas present from Paul Graham.

On the Power of Common Sense

In a visit to the Harvard Business School, billionaire Ross Perot observed, "The trouble with you people is that what you call 'environmental scanning,' I call 'looking out the window.'"

Confession: I had a Perot t-shirt in '92. Not 'cuz I necessarily thought he'd be a brilliant President. I just thought he was entertaining, and if he wasn't entertaining, Dana Carvey's impersonations of him surely were.

Anyhow, more on the power of common sense here.

Is It Possible to Trespass on Competitive Websites?

Here's an interesting story:

NOVEMBER 21, 2005 (COMPUTERWORLD) - The other day, our CIO forwarded me an e-mail from our general counsel's office, saying that one of our competitors was accusing us of what amounts to a directed denial-of-service attack. ... The complaint was that we were making excessive requests to the competitor's public Web site, hitting its performance so hard that customers were unable to access it.

It was obvious now that one of our employees had been making connections to our competitor's Web site...Turns out his job is conducting competitive analysis. He uses a tool that lets him monitor all of our competitors' Web sites for changes to content. So, for example, if one of our competitors launched a new product or had a major news release, we would pick this up within an hour of it appearing on the competitor's Web site.

The end of this story shows the "spying" company getting into no trouble at all, which is correct. However, there…

On Where We Are

Just try this thought experiment: Imagine that it's 1993. The Web is just appearing. And imagine that you - an unusually prescient type - were to explain to people what they could expect in the summer of 2003. Universal access to practically all information. From all over the place - even in bars. And all for free!

I can imagine the questions the skeptics would have asked: How will this be implemented? How will all of this information be digitized and made available? (Lots of examples along the line of "a thousand librarians with scanners would take fifty years to put even a part of the Library of Congress online, and who would pay for that?") Lots of questions about how people would agree on standards for wireless data transmission - "it usually takes ten years just to develop a standard, much less put it into the marketplace!" - and so on, and so on. "Who will make this stuff available for free? People want to be paid to do things!" "Why, even i…

My Buddies in the Mortgage Business Will Love This One:

The Top 10 Mortgage Mistakes Borrowers Make

1. Not knowing which mortgage fees you can - and cannot - negotiate. Or how the lender actually makes money on you.

2. Choosing and trusting the first loan officer you interview.

3. Using an interest-only or adjustable rate loan primarily to qualify for a more expensive house. (You could be paying forever, eventually getting in debt over your head or, at the very least, you will pay more interest for a longer period of time.)

4. Thinking the interest rate is always the main thing. (Most "astute" mortgage shoppers think they should call around to "shop" rates. And "rate envy" is common, especially among male borrowers. But what closing costs will you need to pay to get that fabulous advertised rate?)

5. Not comparing the final fees listed on the closing documents to the up-front estimates (to avoid the lender "packing" the loan with added-on fees without your knowledge).

6. Not knowing if your mortgage has a …

Amen

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It's been a while since we've pointed to the brilliance of Hugh.

Over 1 Billion Served

Earlier this year, the Net served its One Billionth Customer:

Because we have no central register of Internet users, we don't know who that user was, or when he or she first logged on. Statistically, we're likely talking about a 24-year-old woman in Shanghai.

OPINMIND: What They REALLY Think About You...

At this point, this is only fun if you're searching for techie stuff, movie stuff, or other stuff that's prevalent in blogworld. But the concept is great, and plugging your product or service into it could be eye-opening.

Future Talk - Digital Publishing

While most publishers will admit that reference content is better accessed on the computer, almost all believe that the traditional non-fiction book or novel will never be replaced with a digital equivalent. I say, “baloney.” It's coming. The sooner publishing executives get their collective heads out of the sand and face the future, the better prepared they will be to meet it.

I am convinced that we are only one device away from a digital publishing tsunami. Consider what happened when Apple launched the iPod in October of 2001. They provided an end-to-end solution that made downloading music easy, portable, and fun. Now,
30-plus million iPods later, iPods are everywhere.

More from Michael Hyatt here.

It's Too Hard To Type With All This Money in My Hands.

From Fast Company:


Next year, money will matter more than ever to marketers -- the money held by consumers, that is. According to a new report from Forrester Research, targeting the affluent and what it calls "mass affluent" -- those with $100,000 to $1 million in investable assets -- will be the focus of marketing efforts in 2006.

Forrester says key trends within this demographic include:


Online bill-paying generally grows with affluence and declines with age

Unlike most other online activities, the use of instant messaging drops as wealth increases

The largest percentage of self-directed investors can be found among affluent 40- to 54-year-olds (32%)

Broadband Internet access increases with assets and declines with age.

So, the wealthier you are, the less likely you are to IM. I find this interesting and not very surprising. I used to IM. Used to IM alot, in fact. But of all the ways I've frittered away time on the Internet, none was as big a time waste as IM. In fact, now we…

Why I Love The Internet Today - Part II

Received an email today from Joseph Finder, best-selling author of Company Man & Paranoia. Finder has cornered the (relatively unfortunately small) genre of the corporate thriller. In one of my earlier blogs, pretty much defunct, but none-the-less archived, I had kind of railed on Company Man, saying I thought it wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped.

What I should've said was that I read it immediately after Paranoia, and following up that book - imo - would've been a tough gig for anyone.

Anyhow, Finder didn't give me a hard time about my review at all. In fact, as a peace offering, he offered me up a review copy of his forthcoming book, entitled Killer Instinct.

After graciously accepting, I bopped on over to Finder's website to find out what Killer Instinct is all about. From the website:

KILLER INSTINCT is about a thirty-year-old sales executive named Jason Steadman. He's married to a lovely, elegant woman, and they're trying to have a child. Jason wor…

Why I Love The Internet Today - Part I

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Several weeks ago, I wrote that my best friend from high school - a West Point grad. and current Major in the Army - had been deployed to Iraq.

I received an email from the Major this morning, directly from Baghdad.

In part, the Major wrote:

We should be linked up with our Iraqi Battalion in early January and then it should get interesting...Not sure what to expect of this mission yet.

While I'm thrilled to hear from the Major, I'm doubly thrilled that these brave guys have the ability to maintain some level of contact with the outside world. I find that the older I get, the less I understand this war. But that doesn't diminish in any way the huge amount of respect I have for guys like the Major. Stay safe.

Long Tail - Show Me the Money!

David Hornik is asking where the money is in the Long Tail?

Again, while these different filtering technologies may make it slightly more likely that an end user finds his or her way to a piece of obscure content, it will not likely be sufficient to catapult an artist into the mainstream. The beneficiary of the filtering is the end user and the filterer, not the content owner per se.

While I agree that the aggregators and filterers stand to benefit the most from Long Tail economics, there's still a lot for content owners to gain, too:

The difference between a so-so novel in the literary fiction genre and a "best-selling novel" in the lit. fic. genre is relatively slight - perhaps as small as 8 - 10,000 copies. In the grand scheme of the planet, an additional 8,000 copies doesn't require a catapult; a simple boost is sufficient to ensure enough sales for the next book contract.
Keeping with the publishing model, the most expensive part of selling books - so expensive that…

One Man's Bribe is Another Man's Business Model

Bill Gates is thinking of paying you to use MSN Search.

Customer Service That Works....

Can you imagine visiting Dell's web site and waiting more than two seconds for it to load? Well, it takes more than half an hour to reach a salesperson at certain times if you call Dell. 1,800 seconds.

Or call Club Med without a touchtone keyboard and the system hangs up on you...Obviously, there's a load balancing issue. In order to have enough well-trained operators to answer every call Saturday at 2 pm, they'd have thousands of underemployed people later on.

But instead of punishing the customer, why not reward them?

As usual, Seth asks the good questions.

If It Were April, I'd Swear This Was a Joke....

It's now possible to outsource your fun to China.

Googspeak

From the CEO of Google:

At google, we think business guru Peter Drucker well understood how to manage the new breed of "knowledge workers." After all, Drucker invented the term in 1959. He says knowledge workers believe they are paid to be effective, not to work 9 to 5, and that smart businesses will "strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers' way." Those that succeed will attract the best performers, securing "the single biggest factor for competitive advantage in the next 25 years."

Read more here.

Starbucks Clever Again

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From the Business 2.0 Blog:

When I got close enough to speak to him I told him that his coffee was on his roof. He looked at me and said, "I know, Happy Holiday's from Starbucks!" At first I didn't get it, it didn't sink in, so I told him again, your coffee it's on your roof and again he looked me square in they eye and said, "yes, yes, I know, Happy Holidays from Starbucks." It was at this point that I realized that the coffee cup was permanently affixed to his roof and that he was an advertisment in disguise.

Squidoolicious

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from the good folks at Squidoo telling me that I should clean up my lens a bit, since I was ranked in the Top 100 (out of more than 3,000).

Found out why they were encouraging me to dust the shelves, as Squidoo has now opened to the public. Visit my lens here.

Here's the interesting part: I haven't been to Squidoo in more than a month, so how did I have the 88th most popular lens? One word: RSS. Whatever I post on my blog ends up there automatically.

Les Blogs...

I couldn't find my beret, so I didn't take in last week's Les Blogs conference in Paris. Fortunately, this Internet thing means I don't have to. Sounds like Ben Hammersley delivered a top-shelf presentation:

8 Ideas That Will Revolutionize the 21st Century (and blogging isn't one of them).

1. Information wants to be free (vs. copyright).
2. Zero distance (vs. borders).
3. Mass amateurisation (vs. censorship).
4. More is much more. (vs. network blocking).
5. True names (vs. identity cards & databases ).
6. Viral behavior (vs. more network blocking).
7. Everything is personal (vs. everything is trackable).
8. Ubiquitous computing (no privacy).

Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling....

For a price, the company will design a Christmas display, install the lights and decorations, take them down after the holidays and store them until the next year. The average initial cost is $1,500, with the cost going down in subsequent years because the commercial-grade lights already have been purchased.

In Maine, Lucas Tree will put up lights, wreaths, silhouetted Santas and other decorations on about 50 homes and businesses for prices ranging from $500 to $10,000. Gendron declined to reveal what he paid, other than to call it a “good value for the money.”

For more, go here.

What's Wrong With the Gap?

"'Relying on celebrity spokespersons should be the course of last resort,' said Robert Passikoff, the president of Brand Keys, a New York market-research company. 'It is basically a statement that we have no meaning, relevance or value of our own, but if we stand next to someone real close, maybe some of it will wear off on us.'"

Great post on Gap's recent performance lags.

Where The Business Is....

Here's a link to a great report about selling to the small business market. A couple of things I found interesting:

Cold-calling comes across as more effective than commonly thought.Direct mail still looks impressive, particuarly if you put thought into doing it right.Trade shows sound like a mighty expensive proposition, given the usual cost to participate. That being said, most companies don't do trade shows right, and if they did, I'd expect these numbers to look better.

Make Work Fun

Even a Water Quality Report can be fun. Don't believe it? Go here.

You Say "Ignore." I Say "Focus"

From Business 2.0 Blog:

A study in the journal Nature suggests that smart people are the ones who are good at ignoring things, rather than the ones who can store the most information: From the Editor's Summary:

A study of brain activity in subjects performing a task in which they were asked to 'hold in mind' some of the objects and to ignore other objects has revealed significant variation between individuals in their ability to keep the irrelevant items out of awareness. This shows that our awareness is not determined only by what we can keep 'in mind' but also by how good we are at keeping irrelevant things 'out of mind'. This also implies that an individual's effective memory capacity may not simply reflect storage space, as it does with a hard disk. It may also reflect how efficiently irrelevant information is excluded from using up vital storage capacity.

If This Won't Make Up Give Up That Latte, Nothing Else Will...

I’ve created a new Excel spreadsheet for calculating your personal “Cup o’ Joe Factor”, or the true, long-term cost of any regular purchase you make. I call it the Cup o’ Joe Factor because some people think lattes are too expensive and pretentious, and a cup o’ joe will do just fine for getting that caffeine rush.

For more, go here.

Want a high-paying job? Avoid Mississippi

Americans have been migrating south and west for decades, but it appears they’ve been leaving some high-paying jobs behind.

While there are many pockets of wealth in the South and West, the states with the highest wage earners line the East Coast, according to Census data released Tuesday.
Read more here.

Dave Pollard on the Plight of the Creative Class

Look at the people picked for promotions, for leadership training, for the corner office jobs, the people who are highest-paid and most appreciated in almost every large organization, and you'll find they come from the uncreative positions [i.e. sales, cost management, risk management]. Look at the consultants they're bringing in, and you'll find they, too, are in the [left-brain] professions. Look at the people who are least fulfilled by their jobs, those who feel underpaid and under-appreciated and feel they have nowhere to go in their organizations, and you'll find them mostly in the [right-brain] positions. And look at the ranks of the unemployed and you'll find them, too, disproportionately in the [right-brain] professions...

It's not the fault of big business that they aren't creative. They are dinosaurs of the industrial era, when hierarchy was king and success was a matter of leverage -- 100 low-paid drones doing what they're told, working hard, …

Business Owners... Your Next Move...

Last week, Google released Google Base, to which newspaper ad salesmen said, "Uh oh," and most of the world said, "Huh?"

But as this article from the Times says, Google Base has the immediate potential to put a huge damper on Yellow Page advertising as well.

Frankly, I think a lot of this talk is about what the world will look like in ten years. While the technology is here now, it will take at least that long for the average merchant to figure it out.

That being said, if you sell something local - anything - and you aren't planning on getting on Google Base now, you're missing a great - and free - opportunity.

Bigger Budgets For CI

In a study that covered eight countries and the Asia-Pacific region, The Global Intelligence Alliance, a global network of more than 50 competitive intelligence (CI) and business research companies, reports that:

87% of the interviewed companies systematically collected and analyzed information about their external operating environments.
62% of the companies perceived top management as the most important user group of information gathered by CI.
71% of in-house intelligence activities were conducted in a centralized unit.
64% of the researched companies already used a CI technology tool, and an additional 9% were planning to get one.
The intelligence data, collected primarily for strategic purposes, is showing up on executive agendas and is garnering larger budget shares.

Interesting release, though in the US we seem to have more of a trend for decentralization, which isn't necessarily good, mind you. It just seems that in the US Product Managers want to take the fastest line to a …

On Pricing

Pricing is a very effective signaling device, no doubt about it. People (and businesses) assume that good stuff is worth more. People pay for stuff on eBay for stuff based on the velocity of the auction instead of the innate value of the item. Real estate brokers warn you that a house that doesn't sell right away is hard to sell because people look at a house that's been on the market for a few months differently. All irrational and all based on signaling.

The reason that lousy movies cost the same as blockbuster movies, though, doesn't have to do with signalling. (the fear is that people won't go to cheap movies because the cheap price will tell them it is a lousy movie). Of course, this isn't what happens with DVD sales. They sell plenty of really cheap DVDs that you never heard of... for a lot less than the new Star Wars Movie. No, the pricing of movies has to do with industry traditions and being stuck. It's just too hard to get everything in alignment and f…

We're Number Seven, We're Number Seven! (In Mortgage Closing Costs)

Let's hear it for Pennsylvania, the state with the 7th highest average closing costs in the Union.
To view the complete list, click here.

Why Your Business Needs a Blog.

The entrepreneurial predilection for networking is well known. Weblogs or blogs represent an emerging trend in networking, acting as highly efficient media for small business owners to obtain and give advice about products and services. A recent survey of small business owners by Warrillow & Co. uncovered that Web-centric entrepreneurs are twice as likely (at 20%) to be reading blogs than the general adult population. As a group, these entrepreneurial bloggers represent over 700,000 small businesses.

The research also revealed that small business bloggers are almost twice as likely as non-bloggers to be regularly discussing business issues (such as suppliers) amongst each other, and much more likely to be running companies with more than 40% revenue growth in the last year. This attractive sub-segment can frequently be found both online and offline – 86% visit your Web store and 57% regularly read industry journals.

For more, go here.

What Makes Warren Buffett Special?

Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor and insurance executive, was in his office here this summer when he received a faxed letter about a company he'd never heard of.
The letter was from an adviser to Forest River Inc., an Elkhart, Ind., recreational vehicle maker. He proposed that Mr. Buffett buy the company for $800 million.
Mr. Buffett liked what he saw: The company had a big market share and little debt.
The next day, Mr. Buffett offered to buy Forest River and to let its founder, Peter Liegl, continue running it. He sealed the deal, at an undisclosed price, in a 20-minute meeting one week later. As the meeting wrapped up, Mr. Buffett told Mr. Liegl not to expect to hear from him more than once a year. Says Mr. Liegl: "It was easier to sell my business than to renew my driver's license."
Read more here.

Why Your Realtor Probably Isn't Rich

If house prices double, then agents make twice as much. Sell a house for $500,000 and keep $15,000; sell the same house for $1 million and keep $30,000. The agents are Levi Strauss without the copper rivets.

There is just one problem with this—a principle that economists term the "zero-profit condition." In a business with free entry, new participants will keep entering until no money remains. And becoming a real-estate agent is almost free....

With all these new agents swarming onto the scene, the price they charge may remain constant, but the number of houses each sells will not. The zero-profit condition predicts that, in locales where housing prices rise, the number of agents will also rise, and acquiring new clients will become that much more difficult. The occasional star agent will always make a bundle. But the theory suggests that the average agent won't make much more in places where house prices have risen than in places where they haven't.

For a very cool ec…

Monarch Search... Not a Bad Start

On their website, they say:

Monarch Search™ is powerful research software that provides a set of powerful and highly customizable features to handle the most common web site mining tasks: creating site maps and offline copies, searching sites for pages containing specified keywords, comparing content and search results with history of previous results, downloading selected contents, and requesting automated alerts about changes, to name a few.

I've downloaded the software and took it for a relatively complex spin around the block. For me, it was buggier than a bayou lake in August, but I like the idea, I like the format and I like the possibilities. This one has real potential.

Coming Soon: Some Very, Very, Bad Books...

I'm surprised it's taken this long for the Internet to spawn the first collaborative novel.

Who Says the Government Can't Make Money?

Most people don't know that the coolest spy-worthy software companies receive venture funding from a company called In-Q-Tel, which is basically a venture capital group in charge of finding nifty technology for the CIA.

It seems In-Q-Tel recently unloaded more than $5 Million dollars of Google stock, which they'd received when Google bought one of the companies they were backing.

Writely

I'm experimenting with Writely, a new service that lets you share and upload documents to many places. This post, for instance, wasn't created in Blogger, but in Writely!

Not As Stretched As We Think We Are?

New research sponsored by Ditech.com shows that one homeowner in four has already paid off the mortgage. The vast majority of the rest also plan to do so within specific time frames, the Ditech-commissioned survey found.

In fact, the poll (which questioned a statistically accurate sample of U.S. homeowners) discovered that most households take a relatively sober approach to mortgages.

For example, 38 percent of those surveyed have already paid off more than half of their home’s original financing (first mortgage and any second mortgage and/or home-equity line).

Only 4 percent of respondents had no plan or expectations to ever pay off their home loans.

The poll also found mortgage levels are far lower than you might have expected.

For instance, figures show that just 12 percent of respondents currently owe more than $150,000 on their homes.

Another 19 percent are on the hook for $75,000-$150,000, while 30 percent have less than $75,000 outstanding.

Even in California, just 30 percent o…

On The Good Ole Days

My expectations have been raised to this ridiculous level by technology running amok through my heretofore-bucolic existence. I used to be a laid-back guy. Now I'm impatient. I chafe. I get irritable when my gratification isn't instantaneous. And it isn't just me. The whole world is bitchier these days.

I'm old enough to remember when waiting a few days for a letter to arrive was standard operating procedure, even in the bare-knuckles business world. I recall a time without answering machines, when you just had to keep calling back on your rotary phone until someone picked up. (Which had the unintended benefit of allowing you to reconsider whether the original call was even worth making in the first place.) The world moved at a more leisurely pace and, humanistically speaking, we were all the better for it.

Just because technology makes it possible for us to work 10 times faster than we used to doesn't mean we should do it. The body may be able to withstand the strai…

On Being Innovative

Who should be responsible for innovation inside of a large corporation? Why?Horst Schulze: No one. Innovation should be encouraged by leadership and should occur in a spontaneous fashion – in an open and empowered environment – from all levels of the organization. Obviously, there must be proper evaluation by top management to ensure effective implementation.
What is the most important thing that needs to happen before innovation inside a company can occur? Horst Schulze: There must be an environment that encourages trust at all levels. Employees must be able to speak up and cannot be afraid to provide their input.For more, go here.

Getting the MAX

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You have 100 competitors in an industry that is self-described as a commodity. You use the same tactics your competition does, because if you change your pricing or fundamentally alter your marketing outreach, you get punished in terms of sales or profits.

You can't reinvent yourself and your organization until you deal with the fear of point C, and that's hard to do without talking about it. I think the benefit of the Local Max curve is that it makes it easy for you and your team to have the conversation.

Don't miss this one.

Today's Reason to Fear For Your Money...

A presidential tax reform panel would simplify your taxes by rewarding savings, dumping some deductions and limiting others -- like mortgage interest. Here's what's dead already and what ideas may have some traction.

All That's Left for Google to Do Is To Have Open Houses...

From the NYT:

Among the many projects being developed and debated inside Google is a real estate service, according to a person who has attended meetings on the proposal. The concept, the person said, would be to improve the capabilities of its satellite imaging, maps and local search and combine them with property listings.

For more, go here.

Pennies From Heaven?

Amazon wants to pay you - and I'm using the term quite loosely - to do the things computers can't do.

Today's Quote to Ponder...

"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it." (Computers, Communications and the Public Interest, pages 40-41, Martin Greenberger, ed., The Johns Hopkins Press, 1971.)

This post goes on in detail and it's all stuff for serious thinking thinking, but I just keep coming back to what Jerry Seinfeld says:

There is no such thing as an attention span. There is only the quality of what you are viewing. This whole idea of an attention span is, I think, a misnomer. People have infinite attention if you are entertaining them.

And The Winner Is....

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Booz Allen Hamilton has announced the winners of this year's Leading Innovations Competition.While this contest seems like a lame attempt at PR (it appears you have to work for Booz Allen Hamilton to enter?), nevertheless there are some great ideas in this competition. My favorite was this runner-up.

Need a Wicked Good Photographer?

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Peter Leach, the best photographer I know, has launched his new website. Check out some of his top-notch work here.

Like a Kid in a Candy Store....

I've been having a lot of fun looking at some of these ideas on business innovation. Rather thought provoking stuff.

What Your Competition is Doing Next

Using a WHOIS information service can give you tons of information. In fact, using one is how I was able to dig up all those Google registered domain names.

Using a domain explorer, such as the Whois.sc Domain Explorer I was able to quickly find hundreds of domains with “Google” in them. Then it was a matter of looking for the common registrar mentioned in the article.

Using this tool one can look at and around their competitors sites to see if there are possibly other domains out there waiting to be set up. This tool will tell you registered domains, as well as those that are actively hosting a site or just parked.

Great article.

What a Hero Looks Like...

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The guy in the picture with the four cute kids is Major Tom McCardell, my best friend from high school. Along with this picture, I just received word that in November Major Tom heads off for a one year tour in Iraq.Godspeed, Major Tom.

To Which I Say "Yuck."

While there's no strict agreement on exactly what Web 2.0 is, much of it involves public participation and contributions from the commons.

Web 2.0 is very open, but all that openness has its downside: When you invite the whole world to your party, inevitably someone pees in the beer.

What's most interesting about the article is the last page, which suggests Web 2.0 is better because it's easier to fix.

This is an interesting theory, and has worked in other industries. Thirteen years ago, I was selling photocopiers; pretty much "boot-camp" for anyone with designs on sales and marketing. Prior to 1990, manufacturers had strived to produce copiers that wouldn't fail. By '92, however, they had mostly changed their tune, now declaring that with so much heat, pressure and static electricity inside the darn things, they were bound to break. Thus, the smart copier companies changed their engineering strategy so that copiers could be fixed faster, easier and cheaper…

Kinda like Groundhog Day

The 2nd Marketingist Fair is about to begin with the theme “competitive intelligence”. Two hundred and fifty firms and more than 10,000 visitors will attend the fair that will include firms from all the stages of the marketing process.

That's kind of ironic, since I think competitive intelligence is the unacknowledged theme of most trade shows.

Get out of the box, already...

What is the most important thing that needs to happen before innovation inside a company can occur?

W. Chan Kim: The most important thing that needs to happen before innovation is to build a shared strategic mindset among key players of your company. The critical messages in this exercise are: 1) Innovation is the key to future growth. 2) Innovation strategy is that I, the CEO, will personally drive it. 3) We will be a victim of our environment if we are driven by an environmentally deterministic view of strategy. We will reconstruct existing market boundaries and create a blue ocean. 4) Stop benchmarking the competition or competing head-on. We will make the competition irrelevant by creating a blue ocean.

Well said.
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The jury has returned and they're wearing clothes.One of the longest running debates asks how effective sex is at selling products. And while many people hold strong opinions on the subjects, discussions frequently break down into cultural arguments about sexism. Finally, an advertising firm has put out some hard data that suggests that sex appeal may be a great way not to sell more stuff.
Quote of the day...

If a potential deal is complicated or politically sensitive, so much the better. Barrack cherishes thorny situations because they scare off most other bidders. Auctions aren't for him. "How do you congratulate yourself when you've outbid eight of the smartest people in the world?" he marvels.

Read more here.
Just doing my part to drive the new economy...

2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs.

Currently, the time employees spend reading non-work blogs is the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs.

About 35 million workers -- one in four people in the labor force -- visit blogs and on average spend 3.5 hours, or 9%, of the work week engaged with them, according to Advertising Age’s analysis. Time spent in the office on non-work blogs this year will take up the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs. Forget lunch breaks -- bloggers essentially take a daily 40-minute blog break.


Since when did reading become "wasted" time? While there's no doubt that most blogs are written by teenagers lamenting their latest zit, the blogosphere also contains some of the most insightful writing online. If you don't believe me, click on any link to the right. Articles like the above confirm what we already know: the Manhattan Ad Community doesn't get blogging.
Will trade Oscar for food...

You may want to adjust your star fantasies to include the possibility that not much will change after a walk down the red carpet.

"Some people have won Tonys who vanished and you've never heard from them again," says Seward. "With an Oscar, it happens, but it's rarer."

There are always very talented people who win, who are admired and who still don't seem to rake in piles of cash.


Interesting story on how much an Oscar, Tony, Nobel and Pulitzer add to your bottom line.
How it oughta work...

"Competitive intelligence, as practised by industry leaders is very different from old-style competitor information libraries," explains Gidney. "We now see competitive intelligence as a dedicated function embracing a full range of skills, including turning information into insight and delivering information quickly, accurately and concisely to the right parts of the organisation at the right time. The best companies in this field have a 'living and breathing' CI culture within their organisations with all kinds of employees both delivering and using the information and insight generated around the clock."

Read more here.
Is that a target on your back?

In a surprising result, it appears that managers who purchase these intelligence technologies feel they may be unwittingly set up for failure. The report indicates those acquiring competitive intelligence technology often find themselves under intense pressure from superiors to begin producing results quickly. More than half of the respondents in the Fuld survey said they are expected to have a CI program up and running smoothly within a year of purchase.

In an earlier Fuld study examining failed competitive intelligence operations, one of the greatest reasons for failure was the lack of time allowed for the intelligence process to grow. Moderately successful intelligence programs need at least three years to grow, build internal networks and deliver consistent, valued assessments to management. World-class operations may need as much as a half-dozen years to mature and become part of the corporate culture.


Interesting article on how CI software can make th…
Breaking Up is Hard to Do....

Regarding soulmates:YOU ARE NOT MY SOULMATE.I AM NOT YOUR SOULMATE.

To sum up:
1) Don't call my home.
2) Don't email me.
3) Don't send letters.
4) Don't come to my home.
5) Don't bother my friend Sally about me EVER again.


Then again, maybe it isn't so hard to do.
Counterpoint on Web 2.0....

In the midst of all the Web 2.0 hoopla comes this:

The Internet is changing the economics of creative work - or, to put it more broadly, the economics of culture - and it's doing it in a way that may well restrict rather than expand our choices. Wikipedia might be a pale shadow of the Britannica, but because it's created by amateurs rather than professionals, it's free. And free trumps quality all the time. So what happens to those poor saps who write encyclopedias for a living? They wither and die.
...

Like it or not, Web 2.0, like Web 1.0, is amoral. It's a set of technologies - a machine, not a Machine - that alters the forms and economics of production and consumption. It doesn't care whether its consequences are good or bad. It doesn't care whether it brings us to a higher consciousness or a lower one. It doesn't care whether it burnishes our culture or dulls it. It doesn't care whether it leads us into a golden age or a dar…
Color me thrilled...

I sent Hugh my example of a top notch Global Microbrand, and he posted it.
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On Being More Productive...

If you missed the post about the Pocket CEO, it's been revisited. Don't miss it.
Tips for Blog Publishers...

This article by Jakob Nielsen offers the Top Ten Design Mistakes commonly used by bloggers. It's mostly a great article, though I offer a counterpoint for his last tip:

Having a weblog address ending in blogspot.com, typepad.com, etc. will soon be the equivalent of having an @aol.com email address or a Geocities website: the mark of a naïve beginner who shouldn't be taken too seriously.

In theory, I agree with this. In reality, though, many RSS and feed readers can't handle blog forwarding. I discovered several weeks ago that you can't use my "simple" domain to add me in bloglines (you have to use the Blogspot url). Though it's early in the blog game, I think you need to be feed-friendly.
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It's a guy thing...

Options for male-oriented lit. fiction are scant, but fortunately when something is published, it's unbelievably good.

Such is the case with Controlled Burn : Stories of Prison, Crime, and Men by Scott Wolven. Hands down, the best collection for manfolk since What Salmon Know by Elwood Reid.

Don't miss it.
Revolutionary doesn't feed the bulldog.

So how will Google make money? It won't. Perhaps it won't have to. Perhaps in a Gift Economy customers will be so delighted by Google's innovations that they will volunteer their time to identify and develop the next generation of applications.

Dave Pollard explains why he loves Google but why he's not buying their stock.
Why I don't believe in "win-loss" analysis for salespeople:

The car section of tomorrow's New York Times features a review of the new Pontiac Solstice. The reviewer compares this convertible to its closest competitor, the Mazda Miata. He finds that the Miata is faster, lighter, better equipped, more ergonomic inside, with an easier to use convertible top and better gas mileage.

He then goes on to rave about the obviously (by the numbers) inferior Solstice.

Why?

For the same reason you've ever lost any sale your organization has ever been up for.

Because the customer liked someone else better.

From Seth.
I'm sorry, are you busy?

Information is no longer a scarce resource - attention is. David Rose, a Cambridge, Mass.-based expert on computer interfaces, likes to point out that 20 years ago, an office worker had only two types of communication technology: a phone, which required an instant answer, and postal mail, which took days. "Now we have dozens of possibilities between those poles," Rose says. How fast are you supposed to reply to an e-mail message? Or an instant message?

Computer-based interruptions fall into a sort of Heisenbergian uncertainty trap: it is difficult to know whether an e-mail message is worth interrupting your work for unless you open and read it - at which point you have, of course, interrupted yourself. Our software tools were essentially designed to compete with one another for our attention, like needy toddlers.

The upshot is something that Linda Stone, a software executive who has worked for both Apple and Microsoft, calls "continuous partial…
Cutest new product idea of the day...

McElhatton has written "Pretty Little Mistakes," a sprawling, 600-page "Choose Your Own Adventure" book for grownups (styled after the children's series) to be published in March. It all begins on the last day of high school, when the reader must choose whether to go to college or travel. From that choice come other choices, and from those choices again many more choices. From one beginning, there are hundreds of possible endings.

Read more here.
Do Less...

Conventional wisdom says to beat your competitors you need to one-up them. If they have 4 features, you need 5. Or 15. Or 25. If they’re spending X, you need to spend XX. If they have 20, you need 30.

While this strategy may still work for some, it’s expensive, resource intensive, difficult, defensive, and not very satisfying. And I don’t think it’s good for customers either. It’s a very Cold War mentality — always trying to one-up. When everyone tries to one-up, we all end up with too much. There’s already too much “more” — what we need are simple solutions to simple, common problems, not huger solutions to huger problems.

What I’d like to suggest is a different approach. Instead of one-upping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing. Do less than your competitors to beat them.
If you only read one article today, this is the one.
Here's a thought... outsource your life!

It began a month ago. I was midway through "The World Is Flat," the bestseller by Tom Friedman. I like Friedman, despite his puzzling decision to wear a mustache. His book is all about how outsourcing to India and China is not just for tech support and carmakers but is poised to transform every industry in America, from law to banking to accounting. CEOs are chopping up projects and sending the lower-end tasks to strangers in cubicles ten time zones away. And it's only going to snowball; America has not yet begun to outsource.

I don't have a corporation; I don't even have an up-to-date business card. I'm a writer and editor working from home, usually in my boxer shorts or, if I'm feeling formal, my penguin-themed pajama bottoms. Then again, I think, why should Fortune 500 firms have all the fun? Why can't I join in on the biggest business trend of the new century? Why can't I outsource my low-end tasks? W…
Martha Stewart and KB Homes Announce Brand Extension...

I showed my youth a little bit yesterday.

While talking to someone about the news that KB Homes will now be offering houses designed by the Martha Stewart Co., I made the mistake of saying, "This is huge. This is the first time a big brand has attached their name to new home construction."

To which the person I was talking to said, "Uh, ever hear of Sears?"

And they're right, of course. Even though Sears hasn't sold a kit home since 1940, people still know it was a big deal for the retailer (until the stock market crashed and Sears absorbed the 2005 equivalent of about $11bil. in unpaid mortgage payments).

And though KB Homes has never done anything like this before, they have been a far more aggressive marketer than traditional home builders, attempting everything from placement campaigns to sponsoring network makeover shows. Still, the news that people can buy a "Martha Stewart" home is somethin…
When book worlds collide...

As I've said, though not often: I don't get Mark Sarvas. Similarly, I don't get Steve Almond. The quandry here is that they don't get each other.

The more immature part of me feels the need to pick a side.

Based on this amazing essay, I've reached a new conclusion:

I still don't get either one of them, but Almond's certainly the better writer.
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Frankly, it's just horse-sense...I know most of you reading this aren't necessarily "horse people", but as I've said before, I see the Parelli program as a near-perfect example of how to create, enhance, and reward passionate users. And let me tell you, the things he did with those three horses was--for this audience--quite a reward.Just a great post on how much to give away, and how much to hold back.
Digging in the nooks and crannies...

One of my responsibilities is keeping people informed about when my competitors change their webpages. Which seems like a simple enough job until you realize we're profiling 32 different competitors and each one has an average of about 350 web pages, which translates into monitoring more than 11,000 pages.

There are many ways to track these changes; I was a big fan of Watchthatpage for over a year and you can't beat the price (free), but they were recently off-line for nearly a month, which is a great time to cue the audience: "You get what you pay for."

Copernic provides another way of doing this.

Point being, there are many cheap ways to do this, but one of the questions I always ask is if I've found all the pages on a website. As a former web developer, I know that many (most?) websites have orphaned pages - public existing pages, which aren't necessarily linked to anything. You can find them if you nail your search perfect…
From the mind of Hugh...

It seems to me a lot of people of my generation are locked into this high-priced corporate, urban treadmill. Sure, they get paid a lot, but their overheads are also off the scale. The minute they stop tapdancing as fast as they can is the minute they are crushed under the wheels of commerce.

You know what? It's not sustainable.

However, the Global Microbrand is sustainable. With it you are not beholden to one boss, one company, one customer, one local economy or even one industry. Your brand develops relationships in enough different places to where your permanent address becomes almost irrelavant.

Read more about the Global Microbrand (and buy some of Hugh's cool business cards) here.
One of those "Why Search Doesn't Work" articles...

Yes, search works in the sense that if you're interested in Fast Company, you can type that into Google and get links to our site. But for anything where there isn't a right answer but only a best answer--and that's most of life--search isn't going to help you. It's going to complicate matters rather than simplify them. And that's why we can spend hours looking at dating profiles trying to find a spark and hours applying for jobs at a Monster.com.
Given the slew of articles complaining about search in the past few months, I think it's only a matter of time until someone reveals the next big thing.
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Don't you hate it when your eyes are bigger than your stomach?

This story has been blogged to death, but I just can't get enough of it.
What's up with Microsoft?

Growing pains have delayed products, leaving the door open for Microsoft to be beaten to market by younger, more nimble competitors led by Google and Yahoo. Meanwhile, Microsoft shares have been trading at about the same level for several years.

As it gears up to release a slew of new products, Microsoft is trying to untangle bureaucratic snags with a corporate shakeup meant to get the best ideas to market faster and increase the company's push toward over-the-Internet software and services.
Great article explores Microsoft at 30.
The problem with most book authors...

...is that they only promote their books to other authors. M.J. Rose has launched a new plan to fix that, offering a custom campaign which reaches more than 300,000 readers, for only $750.

I'm not a fan of publicists, but I'm definitely a fan of this.
The next big thing?

LET’S SAY YOU JUST DISCOVERED ESPRESSO. For years and years, you were afraid to try it, sticking with herbal tea and the like, but one day, wrestling with boredom and hunger at O’Hare, you broke down and ordered a decaf latte at Starbucks. And fell in love.

Now, you love espresso. You need it. All the time. But you really don’t want to spend your entire income at Starbucks, and you believe, deep down, that maybe it’s possible to make even better espresso at home.

So, you do the obvious thing. You go to Google. And you type in "buy espresso machine." ...

Of course, you’re not ready to buy an espresso machine right this second. Even if the perfect machine at the perfect price from the right vendor appeared in a Google ad at the top of your screen, there’s no way on earth you’d buy that machine right now.

Right now, you’re just looking.
Seth Godin explains what's next, and how his new company will help you for free.
Look, a job weirder than mine....

When I tell someone I work in Competitive Intelligence, their eyes tend to narrow, as if they're trying to figure out exactly what that is, and (assuming they know a fair amount of business) how come they've never heard of it before.

It could be worse, I suppose. I could be a futurist:

Anyone can declare himself or herself a futurist. For people who make a living at it, the vagueness of the job title can be disconcerting.

"Some people who do futures work don't want to tell others they are futurists," said Jennifer Jarrat, APF chair and a partner at Leading Futurists LLC.

Perhaps with good reason. People who make sweeping statements about the future can see their words come back to haunt them. Such was the fate of millennium-bug alarmists when Jan. 1, 2000, calmly arrived. Or of Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment, best known for saying in 1977, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

Jarrat thinks…
What will be on my nightstand before the week is over...

Beyond the cold, sometimes dull, realities of spycraft, The Great Game is about our cultural perceptions and conceptions of spies and spying, and of the merits of intelligence-gathering, and the literature and stories which we have produced to reflect these understandings. Apparently, when Hitz began to write the book, he considered (and even planned) to pen another book dissecting the problems within America's intelligence community. Certainly as the former inspector general of the CIA (among many other roles), he would have had the experience and insight to justify such a book. Apparently, his literary agent can be thanked for dissuading him, and for refocusing his energies, because the resulting book - which contrasts fiction with fact and culls the literary spies of Kipling, le Carre, Maugham, Greene and more for comparisons by which to examine the realities of actual intelligence operations.
Read more here.
The Passive-Aggressive Organization

When in possession of information or knowledge of genuine value, employees of passive-aggressive organizations are reluctant to share it, since doing so frequently benefits the recipient more than the sharer.

This don't miss complimentary story from the HBR can be found here.
From the brilliance of Seth Godin:

If you've got a pretty good job (and I assume you do) that probably means that you get to do a fair amount of self-management. If you're installing eyelets at a Nike factory, they measure your output to the tenth of a second.

I'm not talking about that. I'm writing this for people who are given the freedom to solve problems or create opportunities at work.

Like most things, there's a spectrum of approaches. In this case, I think the two ends of the spectrum are an approach of Abundance and an approach I call Technically Beyond Reproach (TBR).

Abundance means that you look at every problem spec and figure out how to make it bigger.TBR tries to make it smaller.

Abundance means that you spend a lot of time imagining how you will oerdeliver.TBR means you start from the beginning making sure that the work you do will either meet spec or you'll have a really good excuse.

Entrepeneurs have a hard time with the TBR approach, because it has …
What's a Mashup?

It's come to my attention that while I'm a power user of computers, I'm no programmer, which means likely neither are you. So you may not know what a mashup is. Simply put, it's the combination of two internet technologies which provide a very cool result (kind of like combining a lab and a poodle to get a labradoodle).

For some great examples of mashups, go here.
Is that person on a cell phone blushing?

The three companies — Lightning Source, Motricity's eReader.com and OverDrive — will distribute a variety of Harlequin's bestselling titles for download on handheld devices, computers and cellphones.

Great idea - Harlequin produces disposable books (no insult intended) and these titles will be more readily accepted through disposable mediums.
No contest for the "Idiot of the Day" award...

A substitute teacher in Lake County, Fla., was terminated and banned from teaching in the county after he ripped out a student's insulin pump during class apparently thinking it was a ringing cell phone, according to a Local 6 News report.
For more nonsense, go here.
Term paper too hard to finish?

Here's a thought: Write a book, instead.

When he became aware of the demand he put a sample manuscript together. In only a month, New World Library publishers picked up the book and Seaman was on his way to becoming an author. "The Real Meaning of Life" came out on Sept. 9 and has already sold more than 25,000 copies.
Gee, that almost makes it sound easy.
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More brilliance from Dave Pollard...

Pollard expounds on a great article from BusinessWeek.
That being said, the essence of the article is that if you have an existing business, you should stick new ideas in an incubator. A far more radical approach would be to make sure your entire business follows the same model.


Today's episode of "The Sky is Falling..."


1) Housing prices will cool/stop going up very much/even go down in some cities, WHEN...

a. Interest rates rise to a high enough level to make the purchase of a new home a burden instead of a boon for first time buyers.

b. Mild regulatory pressure begins to reduce the amount of funny-money lending.

c. Speculators sniff the beginning of the end.

2)Home equitization should retreat shortly thereafter.

3) Consumption/the U.S. economy will then weaken when the house ATM starts running out of fresh new $25,000/$50,000/$100,000 home equity loan dollar bills.

4) The Fed will cut interest rates in order to start the game all over again.

Let me state categorically that the above sequence is barely questionable, almost inevitable, 99% unavoidable, and in modern parlance - “slam-dunk.”For more great news go here.
The call to arms for Web junkies...

How to grow your website in such a way that it embraces the "new" internet? That was the basic concept of the Web 2.0 conference a few weeks back and this slide (which has been viewed more than 18,000 times) sums things up pretty well.

For copyright's sake, the chart was developed by Beam, Inc.
It's not about the brand...

Starbucks teaches us that rarely, if ever, can you sprinkle magical branding dust to create an endearing and enduring brand.

But that doesn’t stop companies from trying. Instead of spending money to improve the functionality of a product, the quality of services offered, or enhancing the customer’s experience, many companies will attempt to build a brand by throwing
money into multi-million dollar mass advertising brand image campaigns.

These companies fail to realize that your business is your brand.
On not quitting the day job...

A few of the few people I discuss my fiction writing with are aware that I've pretty much taken a break from the art. There are many reasons for this, of course, but when you're the majority bread-winner for your tribe, financial considerations certainly enter the picture.

Simply put, I have a few different irons in the fire at the moment and any one of them - with even a decent ROI - will outperform my fiction.

Just how bleak is it for writers out there? This post nails it:

According to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks sales from major booksellers, only 2 percent of the 1.2 million unique titles sold in 2004 had sales of more than 5,000 copies. -- New York Times

Depressing: 2% = 24,000 titles.

Really depressing: 98% = 1,176,000 titles

5,000 copies isn't exactly a raging success, either. Let's do some more math. If a novel comes out in hardcover, and sells exactly 5,000 copies (and to keep things simple, has a 5,000 copy first print run and zero r…
Simplify, dummy....

Imitation Across Industries Is More Efficient and Effective Than Blue-Sky Creativity and Innovation. If you accept that one million monkeys pounding on keyboards for one thousand years will eventually, accidentally produce a ton of gibberish and one Shakespearean sonnet, you must also accept the converse: that a lone creative individual racking her brain will produce much less gibberish, and nothing profound. Appropriating existing marketing concepts is cheaper — and certainly quicker to implement — than developing new ones. The secret is bringing a great idea from another market or industry to your market or industry.For more go here.
Well said...

The challenges we face today in getting people to share what they know and to collaborate effectively are not caused or cured by technologies, they are cultural impediments. It's extremely difficult to change people's behaviours (they usually exist for a reason), so the solutions we find have to accommodate these behaviours, and these cultures, rather than trying to 'fix' them.

If I had a bajillion dollars, I'd simply hire Dave Pollard to fix everything I do wrong.
Stuck in voice-mail hell?

This website helps you find a real live person at 71 of the nation's largest companies.
Better isn't always better...

Interesting post on the continued discontinuations of certain insulin products:

Back in July, we reported on Eli Lilly's announcement that they would be discontinuing production of Iletin II, the last remaining animal-based insulin on the U.S. market, in addition to its human lente and ultralente insulins - leaving some patients faced with tough treatment decisions.

Overseas, UK residents who are dependant on insulin are facing similar hard choices. Novo Nordisk has now discontinued several genetically modified (or GM) human insulins, including the pen form of its Actrapid GM product. The move follows a 2004 Eli Lilly UK withdrawal of several human GM insulins. As of October, when the Novo withdrawal is complete, many Brits will be forced to switch to insulin analogs.

The Insulin Dependent
Diabetes Trust has been a vocal opponent of the narrowing of insulin options based on what the IDDT calls a "commercial decision," and what they consider i…
Where in the landscape of literature....

...does your favorite writer reside?
How hard are you working and for what?

Companies have been willing to pay big bucks for those longer hours. Over the past 15 to 20 years, people working a 40-hour week received virtually no increase in real pay, according to research by Kuhn and Lozano. Yet employees putting in a 55-hour week saw their real pay rise by 14%. The implication: The gains of two decades of growth have mainly gone to ambitious -- or fearful -- Americans who are working longer hours.

Read more here.
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R.I.P. Ed Delahanty...

Despite probably being eliminated from playoff contention last night, Jimmy Rollins set a Phillies team record by successfully hitting in 32 straight games. The record was previously held by Hall-of-Famer Ed Delahanty.
But not many people are aware that Delahanty's death was a gruesome one, culminating in a drunken plummet over Niagara Falls.
What's coming out next...

Folks from Zimbra, a new e-mail startup that's been getting some blog buzz, came by my office today to show me a preview of the product they plan to launch next week. It is e-mail software that is integrated right into your Web browser and works in tandem with other Web applications, so you don't have to go back and forth between e-mail, your browser, and other software. As president and CTO Scott Dietzen puts it, "E-mail becomes one and the same with the Web experience. We are trying to merge these two."

Sounds like pretty cool stuff. Then again, I'm reminded of this story:

Those distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ - more than twice that found in studies of the impact of smoking marijuana, said researchers.

Are we really helping people communicate better or are we just giving them a new bowl?



Some people believe....

...that Jonathan Twelve Hawks is Michael Cunningham.
Wonder what it was like in Houston last week?

Wonder no more.
Oogling Google...

When you visit Google's headquarters, you have a vague feeling that there's something wrong here, but it's hard to say exactly what.

In nearly every way, Google seems a corporate utopia, a vision of an idealised 21st-century company. The campus looks more like an idyllic resort than an office complex where anyone ever gets any work done. The centrepiece of the main quadrangle is a beach volleyball court that sees a lot of action throughout the day....Suddenly, you realise why: This epicentre of the Silicon Valley present is haunted by a ghost of the Silicon Valley past. You've been right here before, in this very spot, during its original incarnation as the campus of Silicon Graphics Inc. Remember SGI? It was one of the hottest tech companies of the early 1990s. Like Google, SGI was a geeky innovator glamorised by an adoring media - most famously, its expensive graphics computers powered the special effects for Hollywood blockbusters such as Terminato…
Definitely the oddest post-Katrina story I've read...

Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico. Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest.

Needless to say, but click here.


I came across an eight-year-old article the other day entitled Discovering New Points of differentiation, by Ian MacMillan and Rita McGrath (not online, you can buy it from HBS).

It provides a rigorous approach to identifying ways to differentiate your company from competitors on more than just product or service. Here's a synopsis:The first step is to map the 'consumption chain', the various points at which your customers and potential customers 'touch' (or could touch) your product or service:

The point of first awareness (e.g. through marketing materials or
advertising)
The point of locating your product or service (initial purchase or direct
pitch)
The point of making the decision between your and competitors' offerings
The point of ordering and purchasing your offering
The point of receiving delivery of your offering
The point of inspecting and processing receipt of your offering
The point of installing or implementing use of your offering
The point of paying for yo…