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Showing posts from January, 2006

On the Verge of e-Book Mania?

Still, I'm certain that something like the Sony Reader will catch on, if not this year then in a short time. The phenomenal success of the iPod strongly suggests that many, perhaps most, consumers are ready to start buying digital books on the Web and storing and reading them electronically.

And what happens after that? It goes without saying that the economic impact of the e-book on publishers and booksellers will be dramatic (I wouldn't want to own a brick-and-mortar bookstore these days). But I'm more interested in how the e-book will affect the way we read -- and write. New technologies, after all, change art, often in profound and unpredictable ways. I doubt the inventor of the electric guitar foresaw Jimi Hendrix, any more than Thomas Edison foresaw chick flicks. The only thing of which you can be certain is that the existence of the e-book will cause the authors of the 21st century to go about their business very differently than did their 20th-century predecessors.

R…

It's That Sound of Opportunity Knocking Again...

The Yellow Book isn't scared local businesses will replace Yellow Page advertising with Google Local:

By and large, small businesses in America are not going to self-provision. Small businesses don't buy advertising. Someone sells it to them.

In other words, if you're a local advertiser, doing Google or Yahoo Local is a great way (not to mention a cheaper way) to get yourself noticed.

A Little Ha-Ha Humor...

The owner of a large company was at the end of his rope. Sales were down, profits were down further, and the legal department was awash in lawsuits. Searching for some solace, he decided to visit his minister.

"My son," the minister said, "In times like these, it's vital to let the Lord guide you. Go to the beach and sit at the water's edge with your Bible in your lap. The power of the ocean's winds will guide the pages to your best course of action."

Sure enough, a year later the businessman returns to the church, looking much better. He drives up in a Jaguar and is wearing a a thousand dollar suit.

"Indeed," the minister says, "the Lord works in mysterious ways. Obviously, the wind guided you to the right passage."

"It sure did," the businessman agreed.

"Tell me," said the minister. "What did the page you turned to say?"

"Chapter 11," said the businessman.

Shamelessly liberated from Reader's Dig…

Ten Rules for Today's Marketer...

The whole list is here, but this my personal favorite:

A good marketer never takes her/himself to seriously.

Have fun with it. It's only bidness. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at your company. Admit your mistakes. Be painfully self-aware. Let go of your ego. Laugh in general. Don't try to be funny. Find humour. Let it go. It's okay.

Putting the Cart About a Mile in Front of the Horse

I won't be surprised if somebody tells me there's a good use for this product, but at this point, I'm stumped.

A new company has launched which will allow you to publish RSS feeds without having a blog or a website. Now while I haven't heard what FeedXS claims their strategy to be, this is how Wired interpreted it:

This enables people who may not be so web-savvy the ability to post informational updates about themselves to their friends and family, sort of like an email blast.

Yeah - last I checked, the market is really strong for people who get RSS but are scared of blogs. The simplest way I've found to help people "get" RSS is to first help them to "get" blogging. Until then, it's a lot of Blank Stare City.

Finding Love in a Your Job

With such powerful forces leading us astray, it's not surprising we find it so hard to discover what we like to work on. Most people are doomed in childhood by accepting the axiom that work = pain. Those who escape this are nearly all lured onto the rocks by prestige or money. How many even discover something they love to work on? A few hundred thousand, perhaps, out of billions.

That's an important thing to bear in mind. It's very hard to find work you love. It must be, if so few do. So don't underestimate this task. And don't feel bad if you haven't succeeded yet. It's not a sign there's something wrong with you if you have trouble finding the work you love, any more than it is if you're out of breath climbing a 30% grade.

It's a long one from Paul Graham, but worth it.

Gary Sutton - The Canary that Won't Stop Singing

At this point, there was no chance I was going to review the book - it had been on the shelves for a few months and I didn't see enough there to merit reviewing it. (I only review three books a month - so the bar is high.) But Sutton still didn't let up. When I came to work this morning, I found another postcard perched on my desk. Pictured on the front was Sutton, peeking out from behind a copy of his book. On the back, signed "over-eager author," the note said simply, "It could happen, Lucas." Indeed.

For a great story on persistence, go here.

Oh Fine, Stereotype Me...

I used to be a rebel - hated to be labelled, said I was my own man - blah, friggin', blah, but the more I read about GenX, the more I realize I'd make a good poster child for them (or, uh, us):

"The top three things they want in a job, we found, are positive relationships with colleagues, interesting work, and continuous opportunities for learning," says Charlotte Shelton, a management consultant at a firm called WiseWork (http://www.wisework.com) who teaches graduate courses at Rockhurst University's Helzberg School of Management in Kansas City.

"Recognition scored very low, and power and prestige ranked dead last. Salary, a major preoccupation for boomers, came in third from the bottom." She adds: "It's interesting, because most employee-motivation efforts in companies are designed by boomers, who tend to build the programs around what motivates them. But this generation is different."

I especially was fond of this:

Autodesk's biggest ap…

Nobody Ever Said Big Brother Was Bright...

Wired points out the fact that the problem with mass surveillance (Constitutional issues aside) is that it flat out doesn't work:

There are few, if any, studies demonstrating the effectiveness of mass surveillance. People with something to hide are adept at speaking in codes. Teenagers tell their parents they are "going to the movies" when they are going to drink beer. Attackers know to misspell the victim's name, as journalist Daniel Pearl's kidnappers and murderers did, to evade e-mail surveillance. Meanwhile, modern filtering technology can't distinguish between breast cancer websites and pornographic ones.

Strategy Doesn't Hold a Candle to Execution

In what appears to be a very deeply researched book, author Laurence Haughton claims that strategy is far less important than a devotion to execute upon that strategy.

In discussing why some companies are able to consistently out-perform their competitors by executing on a corporate strategy, Haughton identifies four critical building blocks: setting a clear direction, assembling the right people, getting "buy-in" from employees and management, and establishing a culture that encourages individual initiative. However, assembling these four building blocks within any company is easier said than done, as Haughton points out in a chapter called "Outmaneuvering the CAVE People":

"The single, most powerful piece of advice for overcoming the law of inertia and thereby improving your organization's follow-through can be summed up in four words: outmaneuver the CAVE people.

In this context, CAVE stands for "citizens against virtually everything." Just as ou…

Hmm... Maybe We Should Invest in a Web Designer...

Like the look of our website? Whatever the answer (and hopefully it was yes), the chances are you made your mind up within the first twentieth of a second. A study by researchers in Canada has shown that the snap decisions Internet users make about the quality of a web page have a lasting impact on their opinions.

Yowza.

These days, enlightened web users want to see a "puritan" approach, Caudron adds. It's about getting information across in the quickest, simplest way possible. For this reason, many commercial websites now follow a fairly regular set of rules. For example, westerners tend to look at the top-left corner of a page first, so that's where the company logo should go. And most users also expect to see a search function in the top right.

Ebooks and You...

It's no surprise to find one of Google's most outspoken critics, Nigel Newton, chairman of Bloomsbury, coyly hinting at 'a very big announcement' in the course of 2006. Newton is certain that 'within seven to 10 years, 50 per cent of all book sales will be downloads. When the e-reader emerges as a mass-market item, the shift will be very rapid indeed. It will soon be a dual-format market.' That prediction makes a lot of sense. E-books will not replace the old format any more than the motorcar replaced the bicycle, or typewriters the pen. Digitisation, meanwhile, has become the buzzword. Digitise or die is how Richard Charkin puts it. He is a passionate advocate of the opportunities afforded by the new technology, but he doesn't believe that 'people are going to read novels on the screen in a serious way. Non-fiction is a different genre'. The cutting-edge of e-book innovation lies in the reference and technical book divisions. Here, he says, echoing…

Keys To Differentiation

How are you different?

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 your offering
The point of storing your offering between uses
The point of moving your offering from one location to another
The point of using your product or service
The point of receiving support services from you
The point of returning or exchanging your offering
The point of repairing, maintaining and upgrading your…

Keys To Differentiation

How are you different?

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 your offering
The point of storing your offering between uses
The point of moving your offering from one location to another
The point of using your product or service
The point of receiving support services from you
The point of returning or exchanging your offering
The point of repairing, maintaining and upgrading your…

On Becoming a Geek Without Even Trying...

For some reason, there is a space in my brain that knows how to replace the tiny battery in my digital car key. I know why it's better to adjust the RGB levels and work the hue/saturation before you Unsharp Mask in Photoshop. I understand a shred about Firewire versus USB 2.0., single-processor versus dual-core, tri-band versus quad-band, RSS versus Movable Type, nonstick versus hard-anodized, Reidel versus Simon Pearce, Cab versus Zin, ginjo versus daiginjo, CDMA and memory sticks and SO-DIMM and VGA and compact flash and microdrives and click wheels and RAM and XML and H.264 and IEEE 802.11g and about a thousand more I can't recall at the moment because my brain compresses and whiplashes, which of course makes me wonder one thing: Am I running out of memory?

Is there some sort of threshold? As I gain a working knowledge of 2.1 versus 5.1 surround-sound home-theater systems and pick up a tiny shred of basics about ohm impedance, sound stage and speaker "floor," am I…

Cut-Out Quote of the Day

"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."--General Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff

From Fast Company's recently released book, The Rules of Business: 55 Essential Ideas to Help Smart People (and Organizations) Perform At Their Best

When Winning Means Losing....

"Diabetes centers are for hospitals what discounted two-liter bottles of Coke are to grocery stores," she said. "They are not profitable but they're sold to get dedicated customers, and with the hospitals the hope is to get customers who will come back for the big moneymaking surgeries."

Great article in the Times which points out what most diabetics know: getting insurance to pay for complications is easy. Getting them to pay for prevention of complications isn't.

When I went on the insulin pump four years ago, the insurance company wasn't sure they wanted to pay. Why? Despite a pancreas that lives as little more than a placeholder, they weren't sure I was "sick" enough to warrant a treatment which has been shown to prevent ferociously expensive complications down the road.

Considering hospitals and doctors benefit when people get sick, I'm not sure what the creative solution is for this one.

From the Xoogler....

I enjoy reading Xoogler - a blog about what it was like for a few people who used to work at Google. In addition to very interesting tales about a very interesting company during a very interesting time, you get good business advice:

I’ve met a lot of advertising “creative” people who believe they can solve problems before they’ve done the research to grasp them fully. A little word play in the headline, a snazzy visual, maybe a starburst, a twist at the end of the body copy and boom, you got yourself an ad. For a long time, I was one of those guys. It was partly a competitive need to prove how linguistically limber I could be with just a skeletal set of facts and partly a fervent hope I’d get lucky and come up with something the client would love without having to put in a lot of effort. You never know.

Over time, I learned this approach rarely paid off. So instead of spouting every lame idea that came into my head, I’d first try to purge my system of every pun headline, hokey visual o…

Schizophrenics Rejoice

As the PC in my house passed its 4th birthday, the wife and I began to realize that 2006 will likely mean a new computer for us.

She, being a teacher, wanted a Mac.

Me, being someone who likes to buy software, wanted a PC.

We actually considered getting two systems - 1 of each, and may still do that.

But after yesterday's announcement by Apple, it appears we're likely Mac-Bound. What does all the geek-speak in that announcement mean? Basically, this:

Q: Can the new Intel Macs run Windows?
A: While Jobs didn't address this question at Macworld, at last year's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple executive Phil Schiller
told News.com that while the company would not sell or support Windows on Mac hardware, "that doesn't preclude someone from running it on a Mac. They probably will. We won't do anything to preclude that." But you can't run OS X on just any Intel dual-core chip. The only place you can run both Windows and Mac is on the Mac.

[UPDATED]: Scra…

From the Mind of Kawasaki

I'm getting tired of writing about lies, so today I'm covering truths. Specifically, the truths of innovation. I hold these truths to not be self-evident; hence we see so little innovation.
Jump to the next curve. Too many companies duke it out on the same curve. If they were daisy wheel printer companies, they think innovation means adding Helvetica in 24 points. Instead, they should invent laser printing. True innovation happens when a company jumps to the next curve--or better still, invents the next curve, so set your goals high.
Don't worry, be crappy. An innovator doesn't worry about shipping an innovative product with elements of crappiness if it's truly innovative. The first permutation of a innovation is seldom perfect--Macintosh, for example, didn't have software (thanks to me), a hard disk (it wouldn't matter with no software anyway), slots, and color. If a company waits--for example, the engineers convince management to add more features--until e…

Dave Pollard on How to Build a Company the Right Way

I'm a bit more uncompromising, as I see no necessary tension between these three things. As I've said in The Natural Enterprise, most high-stress, high-struggle, hard-work, constant-compromise businesses fail to do four things, none of which they teach you in business school:

If you do your research properly and thoroughly before you begin, you can virtually eliminate the risk of business failure and the stress that goes with it.
If you finance your business organically, you owe less, and those you owe appreciate the value of what you do and demand neither exorbitant returns on or influence over the business in return for their investment, so the business is always fully in your control.
If you market your business virally, your overhead costs are dramatically less and your message is dramatically more powerful.
If you do business as equal partners with people you love and whose skills complement your own, and you agree on operating principles at the outset, all of the manageri…

Atoning for Automotive Sins?

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Though I've made many mistakes through the years, I always tell people that none comes to mind more so than when I sold my '68 Camaro Convertible.

Now it appears Chevrolet will give me the chance to fix that snafu by bringing back the old Camaro. Definitely something to consider, assuming GM can stay out of bankruptcy.

The Secret to Keeping the Housing Bubble Alive...

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It seems we've been buying bigger houses because we need more square footage to hold.... us.

We're 36! We're 36!

Pennsylvania is 36th in the nation in terms of State Taxes, which I found kind of surprising. Then again, maybe that's why our property taxes are so bad.

Where does your state rank?

Friday's Don't-Miss Post

During ten days or so around the holidays, I mostly stayed Internet-free, dedicating my time to family, sleep, satellite radio and a grad school paper I had to start (and, uh, finish).

At any rate, I missed an awesome post by Seth, which fortunately was pointed out to me by someone else:

Imagine a hotel buffet. Dozens and dozens of items (this is an Amercian buffet, where excess is the key). You can have whatever you want, as much as you want.

The cost of making a mistake at the buffet is precisely zero. There is no time cost, no opportunity cost, no social cost. Put some on your plate, if you like it, you can have more.

So, it turns out at this buffet, the two best items (where best is obviously a loaded word, and in this case best to me means best tasting and simultaneously healthiest) were the brown rice and the squid soup. The brown rice was soft, just a little bit chewy. It was like very good white rice, but with flavor and texture that went beyond white rice. It was nutty and had bo…

Great New Logo - Same Crappy Service

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On the heels of my posting about how much I hate my cell phone service comes the news that said service is spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" on a new branding campaign.
I'll let all the graphic artists bicker about how much this logo works, or doesn't (though I'm rather fond of the comment, "It's so round I want to kick it."). Frankly, had AT&T (or at&t for that matter) invested in a few more towers, they'd be able to keep me as a customer after my contract expires. At this point, though, they could call themselves Ed's Cellphone for all I care. When my contract is gone, so am I.

Satellite Watching

One of the things I enjoy about Christmas is the unexpected frivolous gift you love but likely wouldn't spoil yourself with. My hands-down best-gift-received that cost the giver too much money but which I'm devouring this year: My Delphi XM2go receiver with XM satellite radio.

Much to the chagrin of my family, I've scarcely been untethered from the device since I received it. Kudos to XM, as well: set-up was astonishingly easy and with 180 stations to choose from, you can always find something commercial free to enjoy. And when baseball season starts, I'll love it that much more.

A couple points:

It's hard to predict if Satellite will win the war of radio, so I'm going month-to-month on this one. Too many long-term contracts with crappy cell-phone providers I can't stand have taught me that lesson.

One of the few complaints I've had about the Delphi device is that satellite radio could be crazy powerful if bundled with an mp3 player and if my subscription c…

Let Me Boot Up My Book

USA Today takes a look at the next generation of e-book devices.

I actually remember the first generation of e-book devices, as one of the "players to watch" was Everybook, out of nearby Middletown, PA. (The reason, of course, there is no link to Everybook is because - like the other gen one players in the game - they're long gone.)

I met the people at Everybook back then - this was around '97 or '98 as I recall. They had all the excitement of the dot com companies, but I remember being troubled that despite their excitement for the product, they didn't actually have a product to show me.

Seven years later, let's hope the devices are as good as the dreams.

The Death of Google?

Ha! Not hardly. That being said, Will Schroter has some interesting thoughts on how Google could fail:

The lynchpin – CPC inflation
The most successful single search engine will force all advertisers to flock there to get customers – that’s wonderful. We did that at Swapalease.com for over 4,000 words and wound up on Google’s doorstep like everyone else. Then we ended up writing them huge checks like everyone else.


But like any other market economy, the price per click began to increase as demand increased. We watched our average cost per click on Google inflate by 300% in the course of one year. Translation – our revenues are the same but our costs went up 3x.

What that drives is a significant demand on behalf of advertisers (the cash cow of Google) to look elsewhere. Things at Google are not going to get better from a cost standpoint, they are going to get worse. We’re never going to see our average CPC go back to what it was even a year ago, and next year it could double again.

Compare …

Kawasaki Arrives at the Party

You should give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector. Even if setup goes perfectly, people will arrive late and have to leave early. In a perfect world, you give your pitch in twenty minutes, and you have forty minutes left for discussion.

Guy Kawasaki has a blog!

That's a Lot of Underwear Pictures

Did you know that on average Victoria's Secret mails one million catalogues every day?

Turn Up the Resolution

Learning music changes music. Learning about wine changes wine. Learning about Buddhism changes Buddhism. And learning Excel changes Excel. If we want passionate users, we might not have to change our products--we have to change how our users experience them. And that change does not necessarily come from product design, development, and especially marketing. It comes from helping users learn.

Learning adds resolution to what you offer. And the change happens not within the product, but between the user's ears. The more you help your users learn and improve, the greater the chance that they'll become passionate.


While I'm a big fan of simplicity, there's a lot to be said for this concept.

Hey - You Remind Me of Someone Famous....

Ever wonder which celebrity you look like? While I can't exactly recall the last time someone said I reminded them of Bill Haley, this site has cool (and free) technology.

Link via Ellen.