Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#empoplaaybizz PokeSTOP! Or, James Kim is NOT a marketing genius

PYMNTS and Uproxx and TMZ are reporting that "branding genius" James Kim has a revolutionary idea.

1. Trademark the term Pokestop.
2. Reach a licensing agreement with Nintendo, the Pokémon Company, and/or Niantic.
3. Open a chain of cafes called Pokestops to cater to the Pokémon Go-loving public.

So assume that Nintendo et al are extremely happy with the idea of giving Kim a cut of the money, and that the trademarks are approved, and that locations are selected. In a best-case scenario, we'll start seeing these "Pokestops" in...

...well, in 2017 if everything goes perfectly. If things get bogged down with litigation and zoning restrictions (imagine your average city council approving a restaurant that is designed to have a bunch of people milling around), the process could take years.

By which time the Pokémon Go fanaticism may have faded just a little bit.

Now I am not world-renowned like James Kim is, but I have a way to use Pokémon Go to drum up business at your establishment that does NOT require trademark battles, licensing agreements, franchise agreements, or anything else. Sit back.

1. Open a restaurant or café.

That's actually the hardest part in this whole thing. Opening food establishments is hard, and keeping them open is harder. But once you've done that, you can move on to step 2.

2. Buy incense by the gallon.

Now I'm not talking about any kind of incense. I'm talking about Pokémon Go incense, a purchasable game item that attracts Pokémon to the location for 1/2 hour.

Note that I said incense, not lures. Lures can only be used in certain locations called Pokestops, and if you're restaurant isn't a Pokestop, you're out of luck. But incense can be used anywhere, even if a Pokestop is kilometers away. (This is a Niantic worldwide game. Niantic doesn't use miles.)

To buy incense, you need 1,250 PokeCoins to buy 25 units of incense. Since each unit of incense lasts 30 minutes, 25 units will last for just about a full day at a restaurant. And in real money, the 1,250 PokeCoins can be had for a little over $10.

Spend $20 over a weekend, and potentially attract customers who will spend much more than $20. Sounds like a winner to me.

But how do the players know to come to your restaurant or café? Do you have to engage in activities that bring Nintendo lawyers down on you? Not necessarily.

3. Put up a sign in your restaurant/café that says, "We buy incense."

Now I've actually seen huge banners with official Pokémon Go logos on them, and perhaps the lawyers will even let those stay up. But if they don't, a simple "we have incense" sign - coupled with word of mouth - will serve the same purpose.

And if Pokémon Go turns out to be a fad that dies before Christmas, your restaurant can quit buying the incense every weekend and move on to the next idea. And you've saved all the trademark and licensing and permit fees that James Kim is going to be paying.

Monday, July 18, 2016

#empoplaaybizz From Farmville to Pokemon Go - is exercise sociopathic?

On June 30, I wrote a post about my return to the old Niantic game Ingress. As I wrote that post, I was completely oblivious to the fact that Niantic was preparing a new game - its first in several years.

By July 10, I had joined that new game. It's called Pokemon Go. Perhaps you've heard of it.

One of the reasons that I joined Pokemon Go was the same reason that I returned to Ingress - to encourage myself to walk more. And Pokemon Go encourages walking even more than Ingress; it's very hard to "catch them all" from a car, and you definitely can't hatch eggs while driving around; you have to actually walk 2 kilometers, or 5 kilometers, or even more.

Yet in some respects, Pokemon Go is like many other games. It includes repetitive actions - throw the ball, walk, throw the ball, walk, spin the wheel, swipe. And to advance, you have to continue to throw the ball, walk, throw the ball, walk, spin the wheel, swipe. Although you can buy things to reduce the amount of throwing, walking, spinning, and swiping that you have to do. Because, let's face it - some people get tired of having to throw the ball, walk, throw the ball, walk, spin the wheel, swipe.

To truly advance in the game, you have to work with other members of your team. You need to train, or be trained, to defend your "gyms." You need to work together to take over gyms from the other teams.

Ah, the social obligations.

If you're wondering why the word "sociopathic" appears in the title of the post, it's in reference to a speech and article given by A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz over six years ago. Excerpts:

The secret to Farmville’s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each others’ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies. As the French sociologist Marcel Mauss tells us, gifts are never free: they bind the giver and receiver in a loop of reciprocity. It is rude to refuse a gift, and ruder still to not return the kindness. We play Farmville, then, because we are trying to be good to one another. We play Farmville because we are polite, cultivated people.

(And yes, he used the word "cultivated.") But these actions are not healthy, according to Liszkiewicz:

As cultivated citizens, we are obligated to one another. We care about one another. As Cornel West has said, democracy depends upon demophilia, or love of the people. Unfortunately, sociopathic companies such as Zynga depend upon this love as well....

[C]ultivated citizens must constantly look around and examine what they’re doing, because there is a fine line between being a cultivated citizen and being someone else’s crop.

Which raises the question - is Niantic a sociopathic company?

There has already been controversy about all of the user data that Pokemon Go was initially grabbing. (Niantic claims it was unintentional.) And as I've noted, this game uses the same repetitive actions as other games, which encourages some people to buy things so that they don't have to play the game that much.

But what of the benefits?

Unlike Farmville, which required you to sit at a chair, the Niantic games encourage you to move around. (Granted, you could move into oncoming traffic if you disregard Niantic's warnings to be aware of your surroundings.)

And there are other benefits also, as this story from the mother of an autistic child shows. Excerpts:

He never wants to go to the playground at night, because it’s out of his usual routine. He is normally so rigid about his routine.

But tonight he was happy to change things up, and do it. We were in shock!...

When we got to the playground, other kids ran up to him to hunt for Pokémon together.

He was interacting with other kids. Holy crap! I didn’t know if I should laugh, or cry.

MY AUTISTIC CHILD WAS SOCIALISING. Talking to people. Smiling at people. Verbalising. With total strangers. Looking up at them.

Sometimes even in the eye. Laughing with them. Sharing something in common. This is amazing.

Now Pokemon Go is just a tool, and it's conceivable that someone could devise a sit-down Farmville-like game that could encourage similar interactions by autistic people.

But there clearly are some good things going on here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The meaning of cars

OK, so I've been on a car kick lately.

On Monday I posted Elio (it's a car) has its fanatic fans and outraged detractors. Incidentally, I subsequently discovered that I have a higher Klout score than Elio Motors (59 at the time vs. 57 at the time). Then again, I also noted that Klout may not be an accurate indicator of...klout.

Then, on Tuesday, I posted Does a fatal crash mean the end of young adult driving?, which noted that the death of one young adult from driving could be sufficient reason to ban all young adults from driving. Made sense to me at the time.

Since I seem to be on this car kick, I initially thought that I'd spend Wednesday on a musical post in my Empoprise-MU blog, addressing the topic of Gary Numan...

...Guitar Hero. After all, "Are 'Friends' Electric?" is as much a guitar song as a synth song, and even "Cars" has some guitar elements, according to George Chesterton:

Cars has an electro riff that would not be out of place on Jimmy Page's Les Paul....[T]he force of the multi-layered Moog synthesiser parts is almost overwhelming. Using effects usually associated with heavy guitars – reverb, flanging and phasers – Numan drenched the gliding synth lines so they flow over you like wave after wave of ice water.

But before I started fleshing out my Empoprise-MU post, I was struck by something else that Chesterton said:

But Cars contains a bit of futurology that was rather sophisticated. Numan positions the car not as a mode of mechanical transport, but as a fetishised, abstract interface with the rest of the world. This is – in a pop form – what the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard had been writing about a few years earlier. To be fair to Numan, this notion of the car in relation to individuals and society has only deepened in the decades since.

What does that have to do with Bowie or Kraftwerk? So I looked up a summary of Baudrillard's early thought:

The early Baudrillard described the meanings invested in the objects of everyday life (e.g., the power accrued through identification with one's automobile when driving) and the structural system through which objects were organized into a new modern society (e.g., the prestige or sign-value of a new sports car).

Now I am used to the idea of infusing an automobile with deep meaning - after all, I have lived in the Los Angeles area for over 30 years. But to realize that this thought resonated a continent away was a revelation to me. It shouldn't have been - back when Numan had his greatest popularity, "Rolls Royce" had a particular meaning to the British, whether they were punkers or aristocrats.

Of course, if I may paraphrase the philosopher Virginia Slims, we've come a long way baby. Now we infuse inanimate objects with deep meaning.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Does a fatal crash mean the end of young adult driving?

Would you ride in a car driven by a young adult?

Source, license

As cool as the idea and concept of young adult driving sounds, there are still many people who feel uncomfortable with such a notion or who argue that it will never truly be 100 percent safe.

Arguments that were thrust back into the spotlight after it was revealed that a driver under the age of 25 was killed on a Florida highway in May after the vehicle drove into a tractor-trailer.

The incident is now under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a result of the crash, an investigation that could have a far-reaching impact on the future of young adult driving.

Both of the major party candidates have responded to voter outrage over the affair. In a late-night tweet, Donald Trump stated,

Obama permits drivers under 25, and now someone is dead as a result! Shameful!

Hillary Clinton, trying to win over Sanders supporters, shared similar sentiments in a speech in Cleveland, Ohio:

We cannot put our young people into dangerous situations like this. If I am elected President, I will ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.

And, as anyone who has read the Empoprise-BI business blog has already figured out, all of the preceding paragraphs were made up.

Sort of.

The first four paragraphs and the title were taken ALMOST verbatim from an article entitled Does A Fatal Crash Mean The End Of The Automated Driving Industry?. As you may know, a Tesla vehicle using Autopilot did crash, killing the (non) driver.

However, the PYMNTS article goes on to state that while automated driving resulted in this death, non-automated driving is also dangerous.

More than 30,000 people are killed in auto accidents each year on American roads...

So a knee-jerk reaction to ban automated driving will not necessarily make the roads safer. In fact, an argument could be made that such a ban could make the roads more dangerous.

Oh, and one more thing - the picture above was taken from a State Farm photo album dedicated to safe teen driving and education.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Elio (it's a car) has its fanatic fans and outraged detractors

Quick - name a brand new car that isn't quite in production yet, but promises huge energy savings.

I'd bet that most of you thought of a car whose name rhymes with "dressla."

I'd bet that most of you didn't think of a car that rhymes with "elio."

Or, correction - a car whose name is Elio.

If you ask the National Motorists Association (DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A FAN OF THE NATIONAL MOTORISTS ASSOCIATION), the reason that you didn't think about Elio is because the press is bigoted and enthralled with another car:

You’d think the media would be chomping at the bit to let the public know that there is a car on the verge of production (with 41,000 of them already spoken for via cash-down reservations) that — according to Paul Elio — will cost well under $10,000 (under $8,000 is the target) and go well over 80 miles on a gallon of gasoline.

Ah, but it’s not electric — and so the Elio gets no love (much less coverage) from the media.

Electric cars (and other such cars) do because they lack the thing the media finds abhorrent — an internal combustion engine.

And after I read all of these wonderful things about the Elio, I ran across another article that had a slightly different take on the car.

Since the company doesn’t want to narrow their market down, by their own criteria, I’ve taken it upon myself to write a description of the person who would likely buy one. This person:

·Has another car
·Has a motorcycle license and helmet
·Has no desire to drive other people/has no friends
·Has no family
·Has a maximum of one child, NO BABIES.
·Doesn’t care about performance
·Doesn’t care about refinement/noise level
·Doesn’t care about ride quality/comfort
·Doesn’t know the difference between emissions and fuel consumption
·Desperately needs attention/female companionship
·Has the disposable income to donate thousands to vaporware on a second car, but cheap enough that they can’t afford to buy anything else
·Has AAA, because there’s no spare

That’s an awfully small window.

Actually this wide divergence of opinion on the Elio is a good thing - at least this indicates that people care about the product.

If you're interested, here's the Elio Motors website.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

When the big boys take over the haute cereal market

All over the world, insane geek hippies and the like come up with new business ideas. One of three things happens:

In the first, case, the market never takes off, the business dies, and everyone forgets about it.

In the second case, the market takes off, and the business becomes insanely successful. The companies formerly known as Apple Computer and Micro-Soft are recent examples.

But there is a third case, in which the market takes off, but the company that establishes the market ends up losing out to an established firm that muscles in to the industry.

Cereality appears to be the third case.

As I previously discussed, back in 2004 the Cereality chain of restaurants - places where you could eat cereal in various forms - was supposed to be the next hot thing. By 2015, Cereality was reduced to a spot at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, and a second location at a Richmond, Virginia hospital.

As of today, the locations remain the same.

But there's a competitor coming to a major city, New York City. While New York City may not be suitable for salsa, it's certainly suitable for fancified cereal.

With white-painted brick walls and chalkboard art, this is not your mother’s cereal or your grandmother’s porridge. Forget hot cereal, this is haute cereal with big name talent, locally sourced ingredients served fresh.

And your way, of course. The build-your-own option exists for the discerning cereal eater, meaning that if you just don’t feel like you’ve had breakfast until almond butter and green tea powder are part of the lineup, you’re all set.

In some respects, this is really really similar to the Cereality concept, although I don't recall Cereality going into locally sourced ingredients and the like.

But there's one big difference between the new place in New York, and the existing Cereality places in Texas and Virginia.

One of the backers of the New York location is Kellogg's. Perhaps you've heard of them. Anyone who passes by Kellogg's NYC will certainly know what's being sold there.

Which leaves Cereality bobbing in its (non-locally sourced) milk.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Is Britain an island...or a lake?

It is a holiday in the United States today, so I'm making an effort to write something of interest to my non-U.S. readers. But rather than targeting India as I did on U.S. Memorial Day, it's fitting to look at something that is affecting the United Kingdom - and the rest of the world.

And yes, I know that I already looked at Brexit, but I'm going to look at it from a different perspective.

I took a college course on British history in the early 1980s. One of the first things that we learned in that course is that Britain is an island. It sounds like a throwaway statement - Clifford is a big red dog, Joan Jett loves rock and roll, Britain is an island. However, those four words hold great significance. Or held great significance, since there is a raging argument over whether Britain is still an island.

Back on May 13, when the failure of Brexit was a possibility, historian Peter Ghosh advanced the idea that Britain was no longer an island. Certainly at one time it was an island - not only with geographic isolation, but with a parliamentary system that was dramatically different than those political systems prevalent on the Continent.

There was no despotism in 18th-century Britain; no revolution after 1789; and no dictatorship in the 20th century. There was instead a uniquely successful combination of liberty and order. And if this was not enough, there was also a unique prosperity. The nation of shopkeepers despised by Napoleon was the most affluent in Europe.

But by World War I, and certainly by World War II, the British system was not enough to protect it, and the Americans and Soviets had to help out. Ghosh argues that today's world is global, and that even the Victorian world was global. The British have second homes on the Continent, and actually choose to do so. Ghosh concludes:

We have to decide what form of regional and global connections we want today, unless we wish to be little Englanders. But anyone who thinks like this should remember that even in Victorian Britain, “little Englander” was a term of abuse. The most important contribution history can make is what any teacher tries to achieve through historical education: that is, training the eye to look at big issues with a cool, sober, and well informed gaze.

As I mentioned, Ghosh wrote this in May. By June, a majority of UK voters had endorsed Brexit. While it is uncertain what the future holds, it is apparent that one of the factors in the endorsement of Brexit was the desire to keep refugees out of Britain, and that at least some Brexit supporters were willing to risk a political and economic divorce from the Continent in order to keep the foreigners on their side of the English Channel.

In the worst case scenario, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but will NOT be able to negotiate any special (Nordic, Swiss, or whatever) access to the countries within the Union. British working abroad will need to get special visas, and foreigners (including a Frenchwoman that I know) who are working in Britain will have to do the same.

Ironically, this means that the United Kingdom - whose national interests in the 19th century clearly put it in the free trade camp - would have to deal with trade restrictions when dealing with countries just across the Channel - or, in the case of Ireland, right across a land border.

Could the island become a lake - a lake in which the British economy will drown?

Time will tell.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

#empoplaaybizz Revisiting Ingress - much has changed

It has been years since I have written about the Niantic Labs game Ingress. Several things have happened in that time.

First, after a brief rally playing Ingress in downtown Ontario, I drifted away from the game again.

Second, phone technology improved, allowing you to track exercise without using an app such as Runkeeper - rendering my Ingress-Runkeeper compatibility issues moot. But I didn't know that, because I had drifted away from Ingress.

Third, the Ingress application became available for iPhones. But I didn't know that, because I had drifted away from Ingress. And, after all, I didn't own an iPhone.

Fourth, within a couple of months of my Android phone upgrade (to a Galaxy S 5)...I got an iPhone from my work.

Fifth, at about the time that Google morphed (heh) into Alphabet, the Google subsidiary Niantic Labs announced that it would be independent of both Google and Alphabet.

Sixth, my office moved about three miles east of where it used to be. The relevance of this will become clear later.

Seventh, I loaned my Android phone to a mouse for eight months. But after the mouse left us to seek better cheese, I obtained possession of my Android phone again and thought, "Why not install Ingress on this phone?"

So I did, and immediately noticed that there appeared to be more portals than there were three years ago. In fact, there are at least a half dozen portals within walking distance of my new office. When I was last playing, there was only one portal within walking distance of my old office - now there are three.

After playing on my Android phone for a bit, I belatedly discovered that Ingress is now available for the iPhone, and installed it on that phone also. Since I'm using Apple Health (and Jawbone) to track steps, using Ingress on that phone provides the nice gameplay/exercise tracking combination that I've desired for years.

I'm slowly remembering how to play the game (while continuing to play it on my own terms), and so hopefully I will eventually progress in it. (My current level is level 4.)

Oh, and another thing changed; Ingress now has sixteen levels, not just eight. So I'm now twelve levels away from the top.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

#brexitubi Empoprises Rule of Brexit Ubiquitousness

There's one Empoprises Rule that I haven't gotten around to finishing yet. I got really close last December:

I have yet to formally publish the Empoprises Rule of Fair Food that I have previously mentioned, but I will reveal that part of the rule involves the universal use of the suffix "on a stick." (At this time I am not prepared to reveal the prefix that can be universally used - suffice it to say that it rhymes with "lied" and "died.")

But I'm ignoring that now because I want to work on another rule, suggested to me by my RSS feeds. (Thanks Winer.)

Early this morning I was reading one of my RSS feeds, and three articles in a row were of the "What does Brexit mean for..." ilk. This sort of analysis, conducted after the United Kingdom's Brexit referendum, meets the need of all of us to understand what the heck Brexit will do.

I am forced to conclude that Brexit, like chaos theory, will affect everything. And I mean everything.

Hence, my latest copyrighted rule (copyright 2016 John E. Bredehoft):

The Empoprises Rule of Brexit Ubiquitousness

When the phrase "What does Brexit mean for" is followed by ANY word or phrase, the resulting question will be meaningful and worthy of serious consideration.

Perhaps a few examples may be helpful.

What does Brexit mean for...fair food?
What does Brexit mean for...Kim Kardashian's personal assistant?
What does Brexit mean for...Nickelback?

Have fun...and use the #brexitubi hashtag with abandon.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Why I don't fear Big Brothersky, late June 2016 edition

In my previous posts in the "why I don't fear Big Brother" vein, I've pretty much concentrated on U.S. organizations. Because I live in the United States, I know that the FBI-CIA-DHS is not this one monolithic agency. But when I am looking at governments that I don't know a lot about, that knowledge goes out the window.

Take Russia. Back in the day when Russia was part of the Soviet Union, we thought of it as an "evil empire," controlled by Darth Vader-like forces, and always working together under control of the Soviet king.

Um...no. The rules of bureaucratic infighting apply just as much in Russia as they do in the United States, as the two recent hacks of the Democratic National Committee demonstrate.

Yes, two hacks.

One group, which [security company] CrowdStrike had dubbed Cozy Bear, had gained access last summer and was monitoring the DNC’s email and chat communications, Alperovitch said.

The other, which the firm had named Fancy Bear, broke into the network in late April and targeted the opposition research files [on Donald Trump]. It was this breach that set off the alarm.

In passing, it should be noted that the hacker groups are probably really upset that they are now known as "Cozy Bear" and "Fancy Bear." But who are they?

The two groups did not appear to be working together, Alperovitch said. Fancy Bear is believed to work for the GRU, or Russia’s military intelligence service, he said. CrowdStrike is less sure of whom Cozy Bear works for but thinks it might be the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the country’s powerful security agency, which was once headed by Putin.

So these hackers were from separate parts of the Russian government. Well, why didn't they just work together? Because it is rarely in the interest of separate bureaucracies to work together.

“There’s an amazing adversarial relationship” among the Russian intelligence agencies, Alperovitch said. “We have seen them steal assets from one another, refuse to collaborate. They’re all vying for power, to sell Putin on how good they are.”

And now things will get even worse, since Fancy Bear - Putin's ex group - is the one that ruined the party for both groups. Cozy Bear will now call Fancy Bear a bunch of incompetents, while Fancy Bear will ask Putin to exterminate Cozy Bear just because.

And what did Fancy Bear learn about Donald Trump? The Post article doesn't say, but presumably there's a Fancy Bear report somewhere that says that Trump likes women and likes shooting off his mouth.

(An aside for my regular readers - the deeplinks in this post will probably result in a follow-up post in the Empoprise-MU music blog - even if I didn't work Bob Dylan or Doris Day specifically in there somehow.)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hewlett Packard All in One Printer Wasn't All in One for a time (on scan and copy power)

Although I didn't advertise it at the time, I recently left my home for a one-week vacation in Washington DC. (Actually more than one week, including an overnight stay in a cot at DFW, but that's another story.) Before leaving the house, I dutifully turned off and/or unplugged various electronic devices, thinking nothing of it...

...until, after our return, we were unable to scan a picture on our HP 8600 All-in-One printer - the kind that prints, copies, scans, faxes, shines floors, and improves desserts.

The printer still printed, but the scanning part wasn't scanning. And then we discovered that the copying part wasn't copying either. Time to visit the HP Customer Support website, where I found a page that specifically addressed my error message:

Scanner failure. Unable to scan, copy, or send a fax

So I proceeded to solution one, resetting the printer. This was a simple solution that required me to unplug the power cord at the printer end, unplug it at the surge suppressor, and then replug the cord at the surge suppressor and printer ends. After this I was able to successfully copy - but couldn't scan, and then was unable to copy again.

Time for solution two, which definitely merited consideration.

The surge protector, extension cord, or power strip you were using [may] not allow enough voltage for the printer to work properly.

I then remembered that when I went on vacation, I ended up unplugging a few things. By chance did I unplug the printer from the wall, and then plug it in to the surge suppressor?

On to executing solution two. I tried to turn the printer off, couldn't, and then proceeded to step 2 to unplug the printer from the surge suppressor. After plugging it directly into the wall outlet, everything worked fine, including both copying and scanning. (I haven't had the fax set up for years.)

I then remembered why I probably didn't have the printer plugged into the surge suppressor in the first place. I was probably afraid that I'd overload the surge suppressor. And after all, new printers can be bought for a couple of quarters these days (the old "sell the razors cheap and razor blades dear" strategy), so it really didn't matter if an electrical storm fried my printer.

Now I just have to replace my ancient Windows Vista computer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

#empotuulwey In which Chris Brogan, Jesse Stay, and I use the "B" word

WARNING: While I will try to redact a particular offensive word that begins with the letter B, there is a chance that I may slip up and forget to redact it on one or two occasions. Sensitive people should avoid this post.

Not too long ago, I made a change to my LinkedIn profile. My profile lists my Empoprises work in addition to my day job, but the profile does not describe me as a Freelance [REDACTED]ger. Instead, it describes me as a Freelance Writer/[REDACTED]ger.

Why is writing listed before [REDACTED]ging?

Well, duh!

I was reminded of the [REDACTED]ging controversy earlier this month when I saw this item (note that I saw it on Facebook). It's something shared by Chris Brogan.

Brogan's original written product, found at chrisbrogan.com, makes the point that content is still being created. It's just that people aren't going to the [REDACTED]s directly, but getting there via avenues other than direct visits or Google Reader.

Going back to the Facebook share of Brogan's written content, Jesse Stay offered the following comment:

It's not what it used to be though

This reminded me of something - namely, the fact that the [REDACTED]ging is dead debate has been going on for years - possibly even BEFORE Google Reader starting pining for the fjords. In fact, I wrote about it back in 2012, back when Chris Brogan was writing "Never Fall in Love With the Medium" and Jesse Stay was writing"My Official (and Obligatory) 'Traditional [REDACTED]ging is Dead' Post."

It's important to note that Brogan and Stay are NOT disagreeing with one another. This excerpt from Stay's 2012 written product illustrates a point that Brogan would heartily agree with:

Does that mean that personal opinion and citizen journalism is dead? Does that mean that sharing is dead? Does that mean engagement is dead? In fact, it’s even greater than ever.

The one change, as Brogan notes:

Gone are the days of “Just write something because we were told to have a blog by some ‘guru.'” Instead, you have to have created something of value.

What is value? Is this particular post one that I'm going to immediately rush and share on LinkedIn, Instagram, terrestrial radio, and fake scientific journals? Probably not. I'd be willing to bet that the majority of people don't even realize what word I'm consistently redacting throughout this written product, and therefore would be confused by the content.

But perhaps it's something that I can refer to later. After all, when you have a [REDACTED] of sequential written products (this [REDACTED] alone has over 2,600 of them), it's a resource that I - and you - can dive into at will as needed.

P.S. It has occurred to me that by redacting the offensive word, I have shot myself in the foot regarding search engine optimization. So if you are a sensitive individual, stop reading now. Because I am going to use the offensive word.

Like a true so-called "SEO expert."

blog blogs blogger blogging blog blogs blogger blogging

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Can you hear me...NOW? (When spokespeople become free agents)

It seems like a good idea at the time. "Let's start an ad campaign and use a highly recognizable character as part of it!" a marketer exults. So the campaign is launched, people like it, and the campaign - and its character - get attention. A lot of attention.

But the years go by, times change, and contracts expire. The most interesting man in the world isn't so interesting any more. The two guys on the porch - no, their real names were NOT Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes - lose the support for which they were so thankful. We don't really care what beer Bob Uecker and John Madden drink any more (we want to see women wrestling). And we don't want to know what Jared Fogle is doing.

Or, in the case of former Verizon pitchman Paul Marcarelli - Verizon's "Can you hear me now?" guy - Verizon didn't want to hear him any more.

By Stagophile - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49310336

The contract with the spokesperson ends, and perhaps there's a non-compete clause, but eventually it also ends. Which leaves the pitchperson free to work for someone else, to the possible embarrassment of the original company.

And Paul switched to Sprint.

Verizon can do nothing to prevent Paul Marcarelli from working for Sprint, so they're trying to make the best of a bad situation.

"Sprint is using our 2002 pitchman because their network is finally catching up to our 2002 network quality."

Sprint is hoping that Marcarelli's presence will help convince people that Sprint is now the better network. Meanwhile, Verizon is hoping that people won't remember Marcarelli, or won't care even if they do remember him. Meanwhile, Marcarelli is hoping that Sprint's contract lasts as long as Verizon's did. And T-Mobile's former spokeswoman Carly Foulkes and AT&T's current spokeswoman Milana Vayntrub are hoping that there's more wireless service money to be doled out to actors.

Monday, June 13, 2016

When small data is more important than big data

Have you ever completed a survey?

While surveys are sometimes conducted for other purposes, the usual reason for conducting a survey is to obtain information from a subset of the population, and use this aggregated information in decision making.

For example, if the Donald Trump campaign took a survey and discovered that the majority of people think he shoots from the lip way too often, the campaign would then conclude that Trump should be quiet. And Trump would immediately overrule his campaign staff. But I digress.

To get back on topic, I'm going to look at something that I wrote back in February. Here's an excerpt:

I cannot share the details of the two instances, although there is one that I'd REALLY like to share if I could. But both boil down to the same thing. In each case, Person A sent an email to Person B at a particular company. Not receiving a response, or an out of office message, Person A sent a follow-up message to Person B. After increasing frustration, Person A finally asked other people, "Why isn't Person B responding to my emails?" In both cases, it turned out that Person B had left the company, and the person's email account was not disabled.

Now I'm going to reveal a few things - but not everything - about one of these instances.

Person A was (and probably still is) an accounts receivable person at a company that I'll call Company X. Person B is the person who signed the contract with Company X for its annual service - a service that has an auto-renewal clause if you don't cancel at a particular time.

Filling in the blanks from my February post, Person A sent the annual renewal bill for the next year to Person B, who didn't answer his email because he had already left the company. Finally, after several months, Person A sent an obnoxiously-worded email to everyone that he knew at Person B's company, saying that the bill was overdue and was about to go to collection.

At this point the people at Person B's company decided, "Well, the new term hasn't started yet, so we just won't renew."

That's when they found out about the auto-renewal clause, and that the date to cancel had already passed.

So Person B's replacement paid the bill for the forthcoming year, then immediately sent a notice cancelling the service. Both sides were unhappy with the whole episode.

Several months later, employees at Person B's former company received a survey from Company X, asking for opinions of Company X's service. Person B's former coworkers just rolled their eyes - after all we went through, Company X is asking how we feel?

The results of the survey, of course, would be aggregated with everyone else's from the survey, and conclusions would be drawn from the aggregated data.

This is one of the data points that formed part of the aggregated data.

Now this data point in and of itself doesn't provide a lot of context - the person who completed this survey was so disgusted with Company X that most of the open-ended responses were left blank. (Why bother?)

But when all of the data is aggregated together, it will provide even less context. The aggregated data will simply report that in response to question 10, 1.62% or 2.3% or whatever of the respondents indicated that they would never recommend Company X. And then Company X will have to decide how to improve its performance in that area.

And I'd be willing to bet that Company X's solution won't please Person B's former coworkers. Company X doesn't have all the necessary data, despite its survey.

P.S. For more on surveys, see this Marketoonist cartoon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why I don't fear Big Brother, June 2016 edition - and WHY the DHS is at war with the DHS (and we are at war with ourselves)

In our last installment of "Why I don't fear Big Brother," we looked at an interturf battle between various entities within the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice - including a battle between two units within the Department of Defense against each other. In that post, I quoted from a 2012 Wired article.

In the midst of an ongoing turf battle over how big a role the National Security Agency should play in securing the nation’s critical infrastructure, a Defense Department official asserted on Wednesday that the military’s controversial intelligence agency should take a backseat to the Department of Homeland Security in this regard.

DHS as of August 26, 2015. From the DHS website.

Fast forward to today, and we're talking about a fight between two parts of the DHS. This is actually part of a larger battle - the two people who raised the topic were Republicans, and one of them noted that this problem occurred while Democrat Barack Obama was in charge - but the referenced fight was an incident that occurred after last year's terrorist attack in San Bernardino, when Enrique Marquez, an admitted friend of Syed Farook, happened to be at a DHS facility for an immigration hearing.

"The report from the Office of Inspector General confirms whistleblower complaints I received about a dangerous lack of coordination between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,” said Sen. [Ron] Johnson. “The refusal to allow armed ICE agents into a USCIS facility to detain a suspected terrorist could have had tragic consequences. Congress created the DHS to unify and improve coordination among agencies in defending our homeland. What happened in the San Bernardino USCIS field office on December 3 shows that work remains. I hope Secretary Johnson and DHS leadership take this independent watchdog report to heart."

So why did the USCIS burn ICE when they came calling? The press release goes into the thought process that occurs when bureaucrats collide.

The DHS OIG report found that USCIS “improperly delayed HSI agents from conducting a lawful and routine law enforcement action.” The HSI agents waited 20 to 30 minutes in accessing the USCIS building because the USCIS field office director incorrectly asserted that she had authority to determine who could and could not enter the building. The report states that the HSI agents should have been allowed to enter the building immediately after they had identified themselves and explained their purpose. The USCIS field office director incorrectly asserted that USCIS policy prohibited making an arrest or detention at a USCIS facility.

So what happened in this case? Whether you're a USCIS field office director, a political campaign volunteer, or a strategic marketing manager, your primary loyalty is not to humanity, or to your (country's or company's) president. Your loyalty is to the person right above you. People leave jobs because of bad bosses, so it stands to reason that people stay in jobs because of good bosses.

So in this particular case, the USCIS field office directory expressed her loyalty to someone within USCIS, not to the overall goals of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Thus, the vision that a unified Department of Homeland Security would result in a unified purpose in all of its components has come to naught.

But this isn't just isolated to a single USCIS official. In fact, I am guilty of the same issue. When I worked as an AFIS product manager for Motorola, I did not spend every waking hour of every day wondering about how police radios and RAZR phones should penetrate the market. And if you ask me today whether I constantly worry about aircraft engine sales, my response is - no comment. Although to be fair to myself, the folks at Safran Helicopter Engines (formerly Turbomeca) don't spend their days and nights worrying about ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011 either.

Back to the USCIS-ICE brouhaha - in the end, the half-hour standoff between the two agencies didn't matter. Enrique Marquez, rather than going on a shooting spree or anything like that, instead went to the UCLA Harbor Medical Center psychiatric ward and was subsequently arrested.

No word on whether the psychiatric ward had to battle any other units within UCLA regarding Marquez.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Duh! court case of the day

Courthouse News Service reports that the Arizona attorney general has brought suit against a company that received clothing orders (and money) from customers, and that 900 customers never received their orders.

The name of the company in question?

Lawless Denim & Co.


I have found independent confirmation that Lawless Denim has problems filling orders.

The history of Lawless Denim can be traced on its Kickstarter page. Despite original high hopes for Roman Acevedo's firm, its web page is defunct, and its unofficial Facebook page is occupied by rugged hardworking American crickets.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

#empoexpiire Microsoft's approach to password protection

Warning: this post presents some theories from Microsoft, and there are those of you who think that Microsoft is stupid, backward, and evil. Therefore, some of you will probably want to do the exact opposite of what Microsoft recommends.

For example, IT professionals may want to enforce password expiration schemes and insist on password complexity rules.

Why? Because Microsoft says they're ineffective.

Now that the Microsoft haters have stopped reading this post, shaking their heads at the post's inanity, let's turn to the work of Microsoft program manager Robyn Hicock. In brief:

I’d recommend you read this great whitepaper that Robyn Hicock, a Program Manager on our team just published online. It highlights a bunch of very cool research and gives some great guidance on improving the security of passwords.

The paper draws on some great work done by the folks in Microsoft Research, our data and learnings from 10+ years of defending the Microsoft Account service from attacks and information across the industry.

I think it will change the way you think about your password policies. For example, did you know that in the real world all of these common approaches:

•Password length requirements
•Password “complexity” requirements
•Regular, periodic password expiration

actually make passwords easier to crack? Why you might ask? Because humans act in pretty predictable ways when faced with these kinds of requirements.

In the paper (PDF), Hicock refers to "anti-patterns" that result from the use of common security techniques. Regarding password expiration, Hicock notes (as others have noted) that

Password expiration policies do more harm than good, because these policies drive users to very predictable passwords composed of sequential words and numbers which are closely related to each other (that is, the next password can be predicted based on the previous password)....

One study at the University of North Carolina found that 17% of new passwords could be guessed given the old one in at most 5 tries, and almost 50% in a few seconds of un-throttled guessing. Furthermore, cyber criminals generally exploit stolen passwords immediately.

But this is just one of the "anti-patterns." Password length and complexity requirements result in their own anti-patterns, as detailed in Hicock's paper (PDF).

And why listen to Microsoft? Because it deals with passwords like Facebook deals with users - in massive quantities.

Microsoft sees over 10 million username/password pair attacks every day. This gives us a unique vantage point to understand the role of passwords in account takeover.

So while you've been reading this post, Microsoft has dealt with over 10,000 password attacks. Perhaps we should listen to the company.

And what DOES Microsoft recommend? One of its recommendations is to ban common passwords, as defined in a constantly-updated list of common passwords. The white paper links to a list of the most commonly used passwords in 2015. Spaceball's famous "12345" password is on the list of the top 25 passwords, and has been for a while. But in 2015, a number of new passwords made the list, such as "princess" and "solo." And if you're not sure why those passwords suddenly appeared on the list, perhaps another password - "starwars" may give you a hint.

Of course, the most popular passwords in 2015 may not help the criminals in 2016. I'd be willing to bet that by the end of the year, "makeamericagreatagain" will appear on the list, despite its length.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Painting a mental picture of some ALMOST complete instructions

They should really put instructions when going to a hotel on how to use the shower, I can never get it to work then I feel really dumb for not knowing.....

I spent the last week in a hotel...which means that I spent the last week dealing with hotel showers.

They can be confusing. You're used to your home shower, and then you're in this other room with unfamiliar bathroom fixtures. So when you take your first shower during your stay, you have to allot some time to figure out exactly how to take the shower.

But this hotel thoughtfully provided a solution. I failed to take a picture of the solution - for some reason, whenever I was in the shower, I didn't have my camera with me - but when you entered the shower, you could see some printed instructions that covered how to use the shower.

Pull the handle - water comes on.

Push the handle - water goes off.

Turn the handle counterclockwise - water gets hot.

Turn the handle clockwise - water gets cold.

Although these aren't the instructions for MY hotel shower, these instructions from Lemonsoap illustrate the concept. While Lemonsoap believes that the very need for instructions indicates bad design, I assert that it is probably impossible to design a shower fixture that is intuitive for a worldwide audience.

As you can see, the Lemonsoap-cited instructions, as well as the instructions that I found, covered EVERYTHING that you would need to know to use the shower. Right?

Well, almost everything.

The printed instructions failed to tell you how to change the water from the BATH faucet to the SHOWER faucet.

Luckily, I was able to find the separate control to switch between bath and shower - but what if I couldn't?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Is the Uber-Motherboard pitch an indictment of tech journalism? No.

A little context is in order here.

On May 24, Motherboard ran a post with the title "Uber’s Next Stop: America’s Military Bases." In the interests of transparency, Motherboard ran the following text at the end of the post:

Motherboard is running a week of stories about Uber. We asked the company’s public relations department what stories it thought the media should be writing about, and this story was one of the things Uber pitched.

This original text, recorded here and here, was subsequently replaced by a much longer explanation. The entire tempest in a teapot clarified a few things - most notably, that Uber did not pay for the article.

However, a question still remains - possibly.

Here's how Thomas Baekdal framed the issue:

... it just feels like they [Motherboard] are trying not to rock the boat too much.

Evgeny Morozov goes into more detail:

...traditional media find themselves in an odd relationship with Silicon Valley. Their future depends upon tech firms and their CEOs (who are rich enough to buy them out, as Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, did with the Washington Post)....

Most tech blogs just recycle press releases from startups and established technology firms....

Now that the tech media do not even bother concealing they are just a PR appendage to Silicon Valley, you have to worry how the accumulation of so much power and cash in one industry – combined with aggressive legal campaigns targeting the few who, for whatever reason, are still critical of it – is happening at a time when there is no one to keep our new elites on their toes.

Morozov is arguing that the media in Silicon Valley is dramatically different than media in other places. He's made similar arguments before.

But is coverage of non-tech stuff truly different than coverage of tech stuff? Journalists in ALL industry sectors "just recycle press releases" all the time. Frankly, that's one of the reasons why Narrative Science (despite Morozov's concerns about its ultimate state) is able to work successfully; if your typical business coverage merely consists of repeating little bits of information, well, a computer can write that.

So, yes, Motherboard felt the need to let Uber state its side of the story in one article. But that isn't unique to the tech industry. In fact, some consider it good journalistic practice. When the Washington Post recently ran an article detailing Trump's comments about New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez, the Post writer (and Bezos employee) felt compelled to add the following:

Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, defended the attacks on “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no attack on a Latino or a woman governor,” he said. “What this was was laying out the economic perspective of what the state of New Mexico was doing, and he’s saying we need to do a better job.”

The article reported what a candidate said, and the writer felt it necessary to turn to a spokesperson for that candidate for clarification? But I thought you only buttered up to sources in the tech industry, not other industries.

Then again, perhaps media coverage of the Trump campaign may not be the best example to use to talk about critical coverage.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Indian introduction of the Nextbit Robin

May 30 is a holiday in the United States (Memorial Day), so this is as good a day as any for me to attempt to snag 1 billion readers by writing something for the Indian market. I've done it before.

May 30 turns out to be day that the Nextbit Robin will be introduced in India, and it's fascinating to observe how Nextbit has to adapt to the Indian market.

One difference is the price. The Nextbit Robin is being offered in India at the equivalent of US$300, as opposed to the $400 that someone in the United States would spend. Since phones often have to be activated by local service providers, this price difference can probably be maintained without all of us in the United States rushing to Flipkart to buy Indian phones.

Another difference is the lack of a microSD card. Not for price reasons, but because (according to Ryan Whitwam) microSD cards are "extremely uncommon in the Indian market." Instead, Nextbit offers cloud storage capability.

By merging cloud and onboard storage, Robin seamlessly backs up your apps and photos, intelligently archives the stuff you’re not using, and easily restores items when you need them.

In essence, this phone's 32 GB of storage ends up being 132 GB when the free cloud storage is added. However, the cloud storage mechanism may not work that well in India, according to Siddhartha Sharma:

Now the biggest problem with the cloud storage system is that in India, connectivity is a major problem. The cloud storage works seamlessly on a WiFi connection on the Robin, but struggles over 3G or a 4G connection.

For instance, when I didn't play Real Racing 3 for a wee,k the phone backed up the app and its data to the cloud. And after a week when I felt like giving the game a try I had to wait for 15 minutes for it to download the app back to my phone, given that the app was over 1 GB.

Connectivity is a real problem in India, and one realises it when phones like the Nextbit Robin, boasting of the cloud-first approach, comes to India.

Frankly, even in the United States this may be problematic - if your service provider charges you for the data uploads and downloads.

Back to India - the Nextbit is an Android phone, and Android does well in India.

Samsung Electronics, Micromax Informatics and Intex led the Indian mobile phone market in the quarter ended March....It was a huge quarter for Indian brands - their share of the smartphone market was at an all-time high of 45%, while 67% of all phones shipped were made in India, according to CyberMedia Research's India mobile handset report on Tuesday.

Apple in India? Less than one percent of the market. In the United States, the iPhone market share is over 40%.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Carolina Donut Festival was clearly not "marketing free"

Years ago, some tech conference promoted itself as being "marketing free." If any speaker started to do any marketing, the speaker would be immediately battered by signs. Expertly constructed sign...whoops! (Ducks) However, the company that promoted "marketing free" stuff ended up going bankrupt.

Because of all this, marketing lives on. (Which is a good thing for me, since I am currently employed as a strategic marketing manager.)

I was recently reminded of the continued importance of marketing when I heard about a stellar event in Marion, North Carolina.

The Carolina Donut Festival, which is taking place as I write this.

Just listen to the local press description of the event:

The first ever Carolina Donut Festival will be held in the downtown Marion from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday....

As of Tuesday, the festival had 66 vendors lined up. These include vendors for arts and crafts, non-profit organizations and direct sales. These vendors will be lined up along Main Street in the block in front of Mr. Bob’s Do-Nuts.

Before the festival begins, there will be a Carolina Donut Dash 5K through the streets of downtown Marion. All walkers and runners are encouraged to dress in a doughnut theme....

The Carolina Donut Festival Pageant will then take place after the opening ceremony. Masiello and Morgan said Tuesday the pageant so far had 38 contestants lined up, which includes male and female contestants. They will be in different age divisions: birth to 18 months, 19 to 35 months, 3 to 4 years, 5 to 6 years, 7 to 9 years, 10 to 12 years, 13 to 15 years, 16 to 19 years, birth to 6 years (male) and 7 to 19 years (male). The contestants will come from Spruce Pine, Troutman, Lenoir, Shelby, Morganton, Hickory, Newton and Dallas, N.C., in addition to those from Marion and McDowell County.

Sounds like a lot of stuff, and I haven't even mentioned the donut part. This is, after all, a donut festival. For that part of the festivities, I will turn to a friend of a friend, who posted a review on a semi-private Facebook post.

Doughnut festival.... One and only one doughnut vendor, the local doughnut shop, selling doughnuts on the street in front of the store. Hmmmm.....

Left after getting funnel cake, not even a doughnut. Lol.

Yup, that's right. The entire Carolina Donut Festival is the brainchild of Mr. Bob himself, the donut (whoops, do-nut) guy, along with an events coordinator. If you want to try someone else's donuts, go to THEIR festival.

Now there's no issue per se with a town hosting an event to glorify a single business. After all, if the business has contributed to the community for decades, and if the community is known for that business, I could certainly understand that. For example, if my hometown of Ontario, California entered into a festival deal with Graber Olive House (founded 1894), that would make sense. So how has Mr. Bob contributed to Marion? Back to the article:

Since this business opened in October 2014, Mr. Bob’s Do-Nuts has proved to be a big hit in the local community. Owner Bob Masiello serves up doughnuts, cinnamon buns, Danishes, cannoli, bagels and cream cheese. Customers can also enjoy a cup of hot coffee with their treats, all of which is made fresh every morning.

As you can see, Marion has been blessed with an amazing vendor - one who has served the community for over EIGHTEEN MONTHS, and who serves donuts that are made FRESH. Not only that, but he also serves COFFEE. Where are you going to find an establishment that has done all of that, for so long?

Yet, despite all of this, I am not criticizing Mr. Bob for coming up with this idea.

I am criticizing myself for not thinking of it first.

The Empoprises Festival Planning Committee is being set up as I speak.