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Showing posts from October, 2005

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…