Saturday, December 31, 2011

In which I write a year-end post

You probably figured this out already, but all of these 5:00 am posts are written in advance. And now is the time for me to write the 5:00 am post for December 31, which is obviously a good time to look at how the Empoprise-BI business blog did over the 2011 calendar year.

The blog pretty much went at its own pace throughout the year, with three reading spikes on March 8 (for our favorite high-priced gasoline salesman), June 28 (for our favorite malware), and August 4 (for Reddit-fueled visits to a 2009 post on trademarks).

Of course, as a writer, my own favorite posts are not necessarily the ones that got the most reads.

Take my New-Fields post from January 11. Thankfully, they've given up on inviting me to every conference imaginable. Or perhaps they went out of business.

One company that hasn't gone out of business is Foursquare, subject of my January 15 post, but since I am still without a smartphone, and since (as far as I know) they still haven't changed their mayorship rules, there's still no point in me playing. Still.

One post which was of personal interest to me was my March 3 revisit of my job status. We have new proposals software (from the new merged company), we've won some more deals, and Alex Scoble got a job.

In April, I wrote an obituary to the typewriter. If you don't know what a typewriter is, read the post.

To keep my tech cred, I wrote an April post about Zynga. But then again, I also wrote about vampire movies. Or multinationals. Or something.

People in Los Angeles, and nowhere else, may have appreciated my July 14 Carmageddongate post. Luckily, there was no scandal, other than the scandal of all of us staying off the freeway and depriving local television reporters of gruesome coverage.

Continuing to write for old people, I talked about Mita in August.

One of my better business posts during the year was my September 30 post on the symbolic one dollar annual salary.

And I launched a series of "there's a world outside of the United States" posts with my October 29 Thoughts on Zed.

I wrote a lot about the National Basketball Association lockout, culminating in this November 15 post in which I wondered if the union's "disclaimer of interest" move would lead to replacement players. Eleven days later, I had to admit that I was wrong (unless you consider Lamar Odom in Dallas a "replacement player").

And this month, I revisited the topic of "marketing free," which I first blogged about in 2005.

Of course, with over 400 Empoprise-BI business blog posts in 2011, it all becomes a blur, but all in all it's a satisfying blur.

We'll see what happens in 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Off on a tangent, from Nevada planes to Alberta homes

Comments, I get comments.

Not that the comments have much to do with the posts themselves.

However, I recently got an advertising comment that was on topic. Sort of.

Back on December 24, I posted something about renting planes to go from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

This resulted in a comment about renting homes in Calgary.

And, as it turns out, the rest of Canada: covers the entire Canada, providing online Listing services for Residential and Vacation properties located in any of these Provinces and Territories: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon.

When I went to the site (just after the comment was posted to my blog), I started by looking for a nice little residential property in Orillia, Ontario. (I was there for a conference once.) Unfortunately, the only listing that I got was the sample listing. (Although the $100/month rent sure looked nice.)

I figured I'd better move to a bigger city, and although I probably couldn't afford anything in the Parliament Hill area, I tried the Ottawa listings. Turns out I could afford Ottawa - only $100/month! (Yes, I got the sample listing again.)

For Toronto, the biggest danged city in the whole country, I again got a sample listing.

Then I remembered that the commenter specifically mentioned Calgary, where I got two listings. One was the sample listing, and the other was real.

I'll tell my co-worker Bob that there's a place available in Calgary, if the company will spring $1,300/month for it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

In which I repeatedly ignore the advice of statsie

I just did a Google search to see where the term "Empoprise-BI" (the name of this blog) is being mentioned. I ran across the usual suspects - FriendFeed, Technorati, Alexa, et al - and also ran across several with which I was unfamiliar.

One of these sites was a statsie page that provides an analysis of the Empoprise-BI blog page. I was reading through the categories, such as the estimated price of the blog ($141, lower than some other estimates I have seen), when I got to the "outbound links" category.

It begins with an explanation:

Outbound links information for - If a site has a lot of outbound links (these are links from the site to third-party sites) it is not good for the site reputation, and also it can be an indicator that the site is selling link ads. These practices are a good reason for search engines to penalize the sites for manipulating the results.

Then statsie delivers its verdict:

We found 68 outbound links to, but we show only 30 of them (0 with nofollow relation).

Our opinion is that has too many outer links. Our advice to webmasters is to decrease number of this urls.

I then looked at the links that were displayed at the time I was viewing the statsie page. Some of these were to major news sites, such as the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, the New York Times, and CBS News. Others were to major businesses, such as Amazon and Apple. And there were links to my three other blogs (yes, the ones that share the Google Analytics account).

And no, none of those websites are paying me to link to them.

And if you note all the links in this post, you can see how seriously I'm taking statsie's advice.

Dumb crime, the Abbeville Louisiana edition

Too many criminals make mistakes. If they didn't, I wouldn't have a job writing proposals for automated fingerprint identification systems.

D. P. Lyle links to a CNN story about a skeleton in a bank chimney. The skeleton turned out to belong to someone who had been missing for 27 years - Joseph W. Schexnider was due to appear in court in January 1984 regarding possession of a stolen vehicle, and when he didn't appear, people assumed that he had fled to avoid prosecution.

So why do I call this dumb crime? Because, according to CNN:

Even if Schexnider had planned a burglary, the chimney would not have gotten him into the bank. Hardy said the fireplace that the chimney vented had no large opening at the bottom from which he could have emerged.

There's no point in pursuing an objective if you can't realize a desirable outcome.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

(empo-tuulwey) (empo-tymshft) When retro doesn't make sense (Image3D)

Yes, we should have a sense of history. But we should also have a sense of perspective.

My older readers probably remember View-Master. It was a device that looked like a pair of binoculars, with two eyepieces. You would insert a circular disk into the device which contained pictures; you would click on the device to advance the pictures. Because there were two pictures per view, and because there were separate, slightly different pictures for each eye, you would get a 3-D effect.

Well, Rich Dubnow, the lead photographer for View-Master, started a new company in 1997 called Image3D. The company is now allowing people to provide their own pictures. which can be loaded onto a disk and viewed via a View-Master like device. (I don't know if the device is technically a View-Master or not.)

The cost? $24.95 for a viewing device and a disk with seven pictures on it. You can order extra copies for a slightly lower price.

Now this MAY be worth it if the pictures were rendered as 3-D images, but...

Unfortunately, your two-dimensional images will still read as two dimensional through the eyepiece....

Now Image3D can add text or other effects that will appear as 3-D, but what's the point?

Sorry, but this retro idea sounds like a waste of money.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A note to @tynan_on_tech and @jr_raphael

I just got to the bottom of page 517 of the Steve Jobs biography. Yes, the page that quotes from your April 2010 post. Yes, the page that you already referred to a couple of months ago, when I was writing about a plumbing service in Alabama and wasn't paying attention.

While this page doesn't personally resonate with me like page 40 (Jack Dudman) or page 273 (Richard Crandall), it did get me wondering about one thing.

What is the Michael Arrington biography going to look like?

More online sports events

For various reasons, some of which I alluded to in a comment on a Louis Gray post, I prefer to consume my sports online. Actually, "consume" is not the correct word, because if I'm online, I can also comment about the event. If I comment while listening to a car radio, I am the only person who hears what I say. (Maybe that's a good thing.)

However, online sports are only available for the big games, such as the upcoming Super Bowl. If you want to listen to the Los Angeles Lakers, you often can't do it online, since the radio station website doesn't broadcast the game. This means that if the game isn't on a TV channel that I get (and I currently don't get a lot of the sports TV channels), and if it's after sundown (meaning that the radio station is hard to receive in the Inland Empire), I'm not listening to that game.

Of course, there are online re-creations of the games, in which a textual account shows the action as it happens - basically the 21st century equivalent of the textual service that Ronald Reagan used to broadcast Cubs games early in his career. However, I'm not sure what ESPN would do if the line went dead in the ninth inning.

Since you can obviously show advertisements online just as easily as you can over the airwaves, perhaps sports teams will allow more online broadcasts of their games as time progresses.

Monday, December 26, 2011

First impressions of the Steve Jobs biography

I received the Steve Jobs biography as a birthday gift from my mom.

I read the first part of the biography this evening. Since I'm still getting over a cold, I didn't have a prolonged reading session - I've only gotten to the beginning of the Mike Scott era.

Which means that I've already read the Reed College section. While most people wouldn't care, I kind of wished that the Reed section had more detail. Much of the stuff was taken from the Stanford commencement speech (which I wrote about several years ago), and the only professor mentioned by name was Jack Dudman (who was still at Reed when I arrived, but who departed from his Dean of Students role a few years later).

The other part of the biography that really interests me is coming up - the Sculley era. This interests me because I've read two other accounts of it - one from Guy Kawasaki, and one from Sculley himself - and because I lived it, from the distance, while working for a Macintosh developer in the mid-1980s.

After this I'd like to read a Bill Gates authorized biography, but in Gates' case, the second part of the book is still being written.

Ron Wyden's alternative to SOPA and PIPA

One way to show your opposition to bills you don't like is to release your own alternative bill. Of course, this only works for 535 people, but Senator Ron Wyden is one of those people.

You remember Ron Wyden. He's the guy that took ads in the Reed College Quest in 1980 when he was challenging an incumbent Democrat in a primary. The result was a "Draw Ronnie" contest, in which people decorated Ron's face with various adornments. Despite this, Wyden won election to the House, and later won Bob Packwood's Senate seat.

So what does Wyden's bill do that the other two don't? This is what he said:

Wyden says the Smith and Leahy bills go too far by requiring IP providers, networks, and other third parties to cease linking to these websites, potentially disrupting the thriving Internet business and threatening free speech. Wyden warns that the proposals would reverse current laws that protects sites such as Google, YouTube and Facebook from sanction if they move quickly to remove protected material put on the sites by a third party.

If either of the other bills pass Wyden says, it "means we're going back and starting to unravel some of the major decisions that were made 15 years ago that have been so key to the growth of online commerce and innovation and the openness of the Net. That's why I consider this one of the most important issues on the technology side to come down in a long time."

And Wyden, in battling his opponents, cites history:

"Jack Valenti (former head of the Motion Picture Association of America) at one point said that the VCR was to the movie industry what the Boston Strangler was to women home alone," Wyden said, recalling the early 1980s when the industry was strenuously fighting movies on videotape.

"When you think about it, the VCR was a huge boon to the movie industry," Wyden said. "It made them a boatload of money."

Meanwhile, Wyden is using a Senate filibuster to tie up consideration of Leahy's rule. Now most people oppose a Senator's filibuster power - that is, until a Senate filibuster is used to promote something with which THEY agree.

Let's see what happens.

P.S. I'm starting to plan some of my blog posts for the beginning of 2012, and I'm presently conceiving a series, under the empo-tymshft label, which will look at the history of Usenet and the World Wide Web. Don't you dare miss it!

The power of ineffective moves (would Eugene Landy boycott GoDaddy?)

If somebody's putting out a fire with a Dixie cup, running back and forth to the room, it doesn't make any difference to me because at least their intentions are honorable.

Lorne Michaels spoke the words above (quoted in the Steven Gaines book Heroes and Villains) in the mid-1970s, when he was working with Dr. Eugene Landy on a Beach Boys special. Landy twice served as Brian Wilson's personal psychiatrist, and received a large amount of criticism regarding the methods that he used to treat his patient.

Michaels' words could also be applied to those who want to boycott GoDaddy to stop SOPA. However, I believe that the good feeling that you get from boycotting GoDaddy obscures the fact that you're not really doing anything of import to stop SOPA.

I wrote a post a few days ago in which I pretty much equated a GoDaddy boycott to the act of putting out a fire with a Dixie cup.

Come December 29 and 30, GoDaddy is going to get a ton of mentions in the press as sites that most people have never heard of start to pull their domain registrations and register with others. This will result in enough talk about GoDaddy in early January, leading up to the latest episode in which a GoDaddy ad doesn't make the Super Bowl broadcast.

In a follow-up post, I quoted from Jason Roberts:

The pro-SOPA faction lead by the RIAA, MPAA and the like are not screwing around, and the only realistic way to repel their offensive is to fight fire with fire. That's right. In order to have even the slightest chance of repelling this bill a lot of money is going to have to be spent paying off the politicians. I know it's a dirty game and you want no part of it, but that's what it's going to take. If you want to win in Washington, then you need to know the rules of the game, and the rules say that he who spends the most money wins (usually).

Alex Chiang has expressed similar sentiments:

- A real boycott involves self-sacrifice. Taking 20 minutes to change your name registrar is not sacrifice. Please stop feeling like you're doing something real when you switch away from GoDaddy.

- There are too many forces aligned against us to make boycott an effective technique to prevent SOPA. I'll never buy a UFC pay-per-view event, nor use L'Oreal beauty products. I also do not plan on cancelling my credit cards, and if I wind up in the hospital, I do not plan on refusing Pfizer drugs.

- What may surprise you, dear fellow infovore, is that the web 2.0 economy is a nice toy and all, but the old boy network still has the real power. In what may be a second surprise, parts of the old boy network still respond to archaic technology, such as actual voice phone calls and real letters printed on dead trees. Cynic though you may be about the Congress, have you called or written yet?

And Loren Feldman, in this video, has stated that stopping SOPA requires money and influence.

All of the above agree that boycotting GoDaddy won't stop SOPA. But that hasn't stopped the boycott threat from gaining historic proportions:

Data from DailyChanges shows that Go Daddy’s domain losses are already up over 72,000 for the past five days, and that’s likely to keep climbing, especially with Redditors ready to push for massive transfers on December 29.

OK, so let's say that this event continues to mushroom, and 450,000 domains are transferred from GoDaddy. That will result in a...well, a 1% reduction in the total number of domains that GoDaddy holds.

To Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts, that's an accounting error.

"What does Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts have to do with GoDaddy?" you may ask. But if you do ask this, then you need to learn a little more about how the business world works. Let's just say that Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts have a specific interest in GoDaddy's performance.

And even if you understand how the business world works, that doesn't necessarily mean that you understand how the political world works. Just by way of illustration, here are the top lobbying clients in 2011, as reported by

US Chamber of Commerce $46,240,000
General Electric $21,010,000
National Assn of Realtors $16,234,318
American Medical Assn $16,190,000
ConocoPhillips $16,134,043
AT&T Inc $15,990,000
Blue Cross/Blue Shield $15,855,834
Comcast Corp $14,740,000
American Hospital Assn $14,627,047
Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America $14,060,000
National Cable & Telecommunications Assn $13,080,000
United Technologies $12,650,000
AARP $12,430,000
Boeing Co $12,280,000
Verizon Communications $12,280,000
Royal Dutch Shell $11,250,000
Lockheed Martin $11,023,080
Pfizer Inc $10,910,000
National Assn of Broadcasters $10,410,000
FedEx Corp $10,227,223

It's interesting to note that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Comcast, and Pfizer - all SOPA supporters - are on this list. But what about the SOPA opponents? It doesn't appear that AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo, Zynga, or any other SOPA opponent has spent more than $10 million in lobbying efforts this year.

And the SOPA opponents really think they can defeat SOPA? Despite the efforts of the 99% - another failed effort, by the way - money still talks on Capitol Hill. And if you don't have money, you might as well not be talking.

If you think otherwise, you need your head examined.

P.S. Eugene Landy passed away in 2006, 14 years after his professional and business relationship with Brian Wilson ended.

History, craft, and a cross-disciplinary approach

Two differing, but perhaps complementary, views on history and craft.

The first comes from someone often cited in this blog, Jake Kuramoto. In a recent AppsLab post, he made the following observation:

Aside from the fascinating (at least to me) content, something struck me about all the typographers interviewed for the film. They are all very knowledgeable, not only about typography and its history, but also about related disciplines like industrial design and art history. I’ve noticed the same about designers in the past.

After reading Kuramoto's post, I began playing around with a phrase in my head: Those who do not know the history of technology are doomed to miss it.

A search engine revealed that no one else has ever used that phrase, but it did turn up an interesting post from Adam Ozimek decrying the sacrifice of art in modern curricula. This moved Ozimek to write his post, "Down with History" (sample: "even people without reading comprehension can learn most of what they do in high school through documentaries and the History Channel"). Along the way, though, Ozimek makes the following observation:

Many serious, button downed, grown-up careers require artistic skills: architects, marketing, graphic design, engineers, web designers, city planners… the list goes on.


In art class even when you’re learning how to do stuff you won’t directly use in the future, you’re picking up artistic skills that have wider importance than their immediate application.

If you've read me for any length of time, you know that I don't agree with Ozimek's dismissal of historical knowledge. It should be noted that while you pick up specific skills in art class, you also pick up specific skills in history class, such as the ability to critically analyze sources and how those sources are motivated in the history that they present. The Sports Illustrated reporter who wrote the obituary for Kim Jong Il certainly had this skill, since the reporter prefaced the obituary by saying that the ruler's "sports prowess, as documented by official state media, often stretched the bounds of the imagination." I don't know that even repeated watching of the History Channel will teach you the subtleties of that sentence. If you miss what that sentence is saying, the rest of the obituary will leave you puzzled.

However, I agree with Ozimek - and Kuramoto - in noting that knowledge of the specifics of one discipline can often be applied to another discipline. One famous example, implied in Kuramoto's post, is the example in which an early 1970s study of calligraphy influenced the computers of the early 1980s and beyond.

This cross-disciplinary approach to knowledge is something that Steve Jobs' non-alma mater strives for in its Humanities program. And while it could have been better in my day - I wish that physics professor Nick Wheeler had given a Humanities lecture during my freshman year - certainly Reed College gets an A in effort.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I wonder if Santa can hire Blue Star Jets

I was tracking a flight at and saw an advertisement that read

Los Angeles to Las Vegas Starting at $6,900

which didn's sound like a bargain to me...until I realized that the ad was for a corporate jet.

Blue Star Jets offers private jet flights, and allows you to get a quote from your computer, or even from your mobile phone.

I wonder how much it would cost Santa to rent a jet tonight.

Friday, December 23, 2011

If you're boycotting GoDaddy, who else are you boycotting?

Now we're getting into silly mode.

Earlier today I was writing a post about how GoDaddy was getting great publicity for its support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While writing the post, I discovered that GoDaddy had reversed its position and now opposes the act.

Despite this, some people believe - perhaps rightly - that GoDaddy should still be punished for supporting SOPA in the first place.

So the tech community is now whipping itself into a frenzy by talking non-stop about GoDaddy and how evil GoDaddy is and how GoDaddy is begging people to come back bla bla bla.

There's only one little problem with this. Actually, there are two little problems with this.

First, as I noted in my earlier post, GoDaddy thrives on this sort of thing. Over the last several years, they've ridden moral outrage all the way to the bank.

Second, and I know that this may be a shock to those who just depend upon the major blogs for news, but GoDaddy isn't the only company that supported SOPA.

So if you're going to boycott GoDaddy, why not boycott EVERY company that supports SOPA?

Let's take Ashton Kutcher. Earlier today (perhaps before GoDaddy changed its mind), he helpfully tweeted:

I am moving my domains off of @Godaddy due to their support for #SOPA. Paul Graham is also doing the right thing (cc @paulg)

I wonder if Kutcher is aware that his show is broadcast by a company that also supports SOPA. Is he going to pull a Charlie Sheen and quit working for Viacom? Somehow I doubt it.

As you are busily switching your GoDaddy domains, what are you planning to do this weekend? Watch some football? Put on some makeup? Run up some last minute credit card charges? Why aren't you boycotting the National Football League, Revlon, Mastercard, and Visa? After all, they - along with Viacom - all support SOPA.

And in case you'd like a list of all of the companies that support SOPA, the House Judiciary Committee has helpfully provided this list of SOPA supporters. (Note for the URL-challenged - it's ROGUE websites, not ROUGE websites.)

60 Plus Association
Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP)
American Bankers Association (ABA)
American Federation of Musicians (AFM)
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)
Americans for Tax Reform
Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States
Association of American Publishers (AAP)
Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies
Association of Talent Agents (ATA)
Beachbody, LLC
BMG Chrysalis
Building and Construction Trades Department
Capitol Records Nashville
Cengage Learning
Christian Music Trade Association
Church Music Publishers’ Association
Coalition Against Online Video Piracy (CAOVP)
Concerned Women for America (CWA)
Congressional Fire Services Institute
Copyright Alliance
Coty, Inc.
Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB)
Council of State Governments
Country Music Association
Country Music Television
Creative America
Directors Guild of America (DGA)
Disney Publishing Worldwide, Inc.
EMI Christian Music Group2
EMI Music Publishing
Entertainment Software Association (ESA)
Estée Lauder Companies
Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)
Gospel Music Association
Graphic Artists Guild
Hachette Book Group
HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, Inc.
Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA)
International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE)
International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)
International Trademark Association (INTA)
International Union of Police Associations
Lost Highway Records
Major County Sheriffs
Major League Baseball
Majority City Chiefs
Marvel Entertainment, LLC
MasterCard Worldwide
MCA Records
McGraw-Hill Education
Mercury Nashville
Minor League Baseball (MiLB)
Minority Media & Telecom Council (MMTC)
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
Moving Picture Technicians
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators
National Association of State Chief Information Officers
National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA)
National Center for Victims of Crime
National Crime Justice Association
National District Attorneys Association
National Domestic Preparedness Coalition
National Football League
National Governors Association, Economic Development and Commerce Committee
National League of Cities
National Narcotics Offers’ Associations’ Coalition3
National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA)
National Songwriters Association
National Troopers Coalition
News Corporation
Pearson Education
Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
Pfizer, Inc.
Provident Music Group
Random House
Raulet Property Partners
Republic Nashville
Scholastic, Inc.
Screen Actors Guild (SAG)
Showdog Universal Music
Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Sony Music Entertainment
Sony Music Nashville
State International Development Organization (SIDO)
The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO)
The Perseus Books Groups
The United States Conference of Mayors
Tiffany & Co.
Time Warner
True Religion Brand Jeans
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
UMG Publishing Group Nashville
United States Chamber of Commerce
United States Olympic Committee
United States Tennis Association
Universal Music
Universal Music Publishing Group
Visa Inc.
W.W. Norton & Company
Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, L.P.
Warner Music Group
Warner Music Nashville
Wolters Kluewer Health
Word Entertainment

So let's see if people are serious about battling SOPA.

Incidentally, if you are interesting in knowing what WILL stop SOPA - and trust me, saying bad things about GoDaddy, or even the United States Tennis Association, isn't going to make a bit of difference - be sure to read this Google+ item from Jason Roberts. Here's a brief excerpt:

The pro-SOPA faction lead by the RIAA, MPAA and the like are not screwing around, and the only realistic way to repel their offensive is to fight fire with fire. That's right. In order to have even the slightest chance of repelling this bill a lot of money is going to have to be spent paying off the politicians. I know it's a dirty game and you want no part of it, but that's what it's going to take. If you want to win in Washington, then you need to know the rules of the game, and the rules say that he who spends the most money wins (usually).

On angering your customers - sometimes it's a good thing


Try as they might, some businesses just can't please every customer. Take Wendi McGowan and the Stoneleigh Hotel.

I want, want, WANT to LOVE the Stoneleigh Hotel. I met my boyfriend there for the first time over five years ago at a professional networking event. I was so excited when they announced their remodel and upgrades two years ago and completed them all above anyone’s expectations. I have been (and taken boyfriend) to the Spa in the Stoneleigh numerous times, and their services are sublime. I love sipping cocktails in the lobby lounge and the retro chandeliers are chic. I wish more than anything that they would get back to work on the Stoneleigh Residences Tower because I want to live here… do you get that I like this place?

So what terrible crime did the Stoneleigh Hotel commit to earn McGowan's ire?

In mid-Tweet, I realized that I wasn’t positive that the Stoneleigh’s Twitter ID was @StoneleighHotel (it is!). I asked both the bartenders for confirmation, and they said they didn’t know it.

HUH? Isn’t this basic marketing? NOTE to all companies: Every employee should know the company Twitter ID, Facebook group, LinkedIn URL. It should be on their business cards for easy reference.

So, back at the Stoneleigh, I walk over to the Concierge Desk thinking (stupidly, it turns out, on my part) surely this guy will know. Instead, I am handed a snippily delivered, “I don’t tweet.” complete with a side order of disdain.

Now in my opinion, it's not the end of the world if my maid doesn't know the Google+ page of the hotel or motel where I'm staying. What's next - demanding a complete recitation of the latest quarterly earnings?

Which brings us to SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act that all the cool kids oppose. Except for the one kid in the corner with the scantily clad babes on each arm. Yup, GoDaddy is one notable Internet company that actually supports SOPA.

"As much as some would like to paint a bleak picture, this debate is not about Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley," reads a statement GoDaddy filed with the U.S. House of Representatives. "This debate is about preserving, protecting, and creating American jobs and protecting American consumers from the dangers that they face on-line."

GoDaddy goes on to condemn the ease with which people can conduct illegal activity like selling fake drugs and sharing copyrighted material on the Internet today and dismisses concerns about the potential drawbacks of SOPA and the Protect IP Act. Critics claim that this legislation hands too much power over to corporations and authorities to police the Internet and could lead to wholesale censorship online. GoDaddy disagrees.

"This bill cannot reasonably be equated with censorship. This bill promotes action pursuant to preexisting criminal and civil laws," the company said. "Not only is there no First Amendment concern, but the notion that we should turn a blind eye to criminal conduct because other countries may take oppressive steps in response is an affront to the very fabric of this nation."

And now there are calls for boycotts and GoDaddy-less cheezburgers and everything else, which has served to...well, it's served to give GoDaddy a whole lot of publicity.

Hasn't anyone followed GoDaddy's marketing model for the last few years? GoDaddy has consistently courted controversy, and laughed all the way to the bank. If you were to believe the protests, no one registers domains with GoDaddy any more anyway, since they're a bunch of demeaning sexist pigs. Yet it appears that there are still enough GoDaddy registered domains to make a boycott threat worthwhile.

How do feminists feel, knowing that the cheezburger empire is registered with GoDaddy (at least for now)?

Here's what's going to happen. Come December 29 and 30, GoDaddy is going to get a ton of mentions in the press as sites that most people have never heard of start to pull their domain registrations and register with others. This will result in enough talk about GoDaddy in early January, leading up to the latest episode in which a GoDaddy ad doesn't make the Super Bowl broadcast.

In other words, Bob Parsons has engineered yet another marketing bonanza, with the willing help of the techies. Masterful.

Oh, and one more thing...after I wrote this post, but before it published, I found that GoDaddy had issued this release:

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Dec. 23, 2011) - Go Daddy is no longer supporting SOPA, the "Stop Online Piracy Act" currently working its way through U.S. Congress.

"Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation - but we can clearly do better," Warren Adelman, Go Daddy's newly appointed CEO, said. "It's very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it."

Go Daddy and its General Counsel, Christine Jones, have worked with federal lawmakers for months to help craft revisions to legislation first introduced some three years ago. Jones has fought to express the concerns of the entire Internet community and to improve the bill by proposing changes to key defined terms, limitations on DNS filtering to ensure the integrity of the Internet, more significant consequences for frivolous claims, and specific provisions to protect free speech.

"As a company that is all about innovation, with our own technology and in support of our customers, Go Daddy is rooted in the idea of First Amendment Rights and believes 100 percent that the Internet is a key engine for our new economy," said Adelman.

In changing its position, Go Daddy remains steadfast in its promise to support security and stability of the Internet. In an effort to eliminate any confusion about its reversal on SOPA though, Jones has removed blog postings that had outlined areas of the bill Go Daddy did support.

"Go Daddy has always fought to preserve the intellectual property rights of third parties, and will continue to do so in the future," Jones said.

Of course, if GoDaddy is lucky, most people will miss the December 23 release and will continue to protest about GoDaddy, putting its name up front in our minds. And then on December 30, someone will triumphantly announce the successful transfer of domains from GoDaddy, and will then be informed that GoDaddy changed its stance during the prior week, and all the while people will be talking GoDaddy GoDaddy GoDaddy.

So, when will that Super Bowl commercial talk start again?


What's in YOUR dynamic map?

Because of the industry in which I work, I spend a lot of time visiting various law enforcement websites. The local agency websites provide information on the agency itself, its command structure, and the services the agency provides.

One such local agency website included a map of the local agency headquarters, created using a popular search engine. However, rather than mapping the street address of the headquarters, the map was coded to look in a specific geographical area, and then search for the term "police."

At the time that I clicked on the link to the map, the link provided information on TWO locations.

One was the agency headquarters.

The other was to a local gentlemen's club offering private dances. (This location made the search results because of an altercation that occurred at the establishment.)

This serves as a reminder that online information is often dynamic, and just search your search returns a particular set of results today, the same search tomorrow may provide results which were not intended.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stop, Eno!

I was working on a major proposal recently and got way behind in my reading. But the AppsLab blog links to this story on the American origins of the stop sign. Excerpt:

At a time when there were no driver’s licenses, speed limits or clear lane demarcations, the notion of a stop sign was revolutionary. In fact, aside from the occasional road markers letting riders on horseback know how far they were from the next city, there was no road or street signage at all. [William Phelps] Eno, scion of a wealthy New England family who never learned to drive, helped change all that. In a 1900 article titled “Reforming Our Street Traffic Urgently Needed,” for Rider and Driver magazine, he proposed placing stop signs at intersections.

Be sure to read further in the article for the whole thing about sign shapes that impressed Jake Kuramoto so much.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shopping spree in Mongolia?

It's a few days before Christmas, and the 1% and a good chunk of the 99% are out shopping. So perhaps some people are going to this place:

Nothing illustrates the topsy-turvy nature of Mongolia today more than the capital city's main Sukhbaatar Square, where a bronze statue of Lenin once presided. Now a gleaming Louis Vuitton store, opened in October 2009, offers clients champagne in a circular VIP room outfitted with a lavish ceremonial Mongolian saddle and antique caviar case.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

(empo-tuulwey) Verizon Wireless demonstrates why I launched the "empo-tuulwey" series on this blog

My blog platform, Blogger, includes a facility called "labels" which functions similarly to the tags used in other applications. Blogger labels allow me to create series of posts that address a particular subject.

One of the first labels that I began using was a label with the name "empo-tuulwey." (Other posts in the Empoprise-BI business blog in the "empo-tuulwey" category can be found here.) The "empo-tuulwey" category can be summed up in the simple statement

A tool is not a way of life.

I've recently run across an example of the opposing view - the view that a tool IS a way of life. Verizon Wireless is running an ad campaign (example here) which uses the slogan

The Business with the Best Technology Rules

Now I'm not going to discount great technology entirely, but anyone with half a brain realizes that great technology is only a small part of business success. And I can provide an example from...well, from Verizon Wireless. Courtesy an August 10 Reuters story:

Verizon Communications' (VZ.N) new high-speed fiber optic network will never make as much money as its old copper network, an executive said on Wednesday.

[CIO Fran] Shammo cited fierce competition in the TV market as well as high-fees for digital content as reasons why FiOS will not be as profitable as its legacy service.

Another example is the competition between Sony and JVC in the videotape market. Sony was first in the market, with its Betamax technology. JVC followed a year later with its technology, called VHS. Many argue that Betamax was the better technology; thus, if you follow the wisdom of Verizon Wireless, Betamax should have won.

As some of you older folks know, Betamax lost that war. Dave Owen lists a number of reasons why VHS won:

VHS machines were initially much simpler and cheaper to manufacture, which would obviously be an attraction to companies deciding which standard to back....

For consumers, the most immediately obvious difference between the two formats was the recording length. Standard Betamax tapes lasted 60 minutes — not long enough to record a movie. Conversely, the 3-hour VHS tapes were perfect for recording television programmes and movies. Sony did adapt and offer various solutions for longer recording, but it was too late. The issue of recording time is often cited as the most defining factor in the war.

And some (but not all) people claim that there was another differentiator:

There is a claim that adult content was not available on Betamax (possibly because Sony would not allow it) while it was becoming readily available on VHS. Whether or not this was really a factor is a contentious topic.

But Owen did find agreement on another item:

At some point and for some reason the choice of rental movies on VHS became better than Betamax. It is arguable how this situation came to be, but once it happened, there was no turning back. Bitter Betamax owners cringed in their ever-decreasing corner of the video store while VHS owners gloated.

Betamax is often cited as the prime example of why technology doesn't always rule. And it certainly serves to demonstrate that success is usually dependent upon a number of different factors, including chance.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Some more thoughts on advice from the ex(perienced)

In the past, I've written about the possibility of a former CEO giving advice to a new CEO at his/her company, even if the new CEO is vastly different from the former one. I modeled my thoughts after the way that ex-Presidents sometimes advise current Presidents, even when they are of different political parties.

In general, it's helpful to get advice from a more experienced person. Joe Hadzima provided this example:

Paul, one of my startup clients, has a product that will be sold to the defense and automotive industries. He has established an informal adviser relationship with Kevin, a semi retired former General Electric executive who has years of experience in dealing with the government and large manufacturers. Over the past year, adviser Kevin has given entrepreneur Paul invaluable advice about pricing, contract strategies and dealing with subcontractors. Paul figures he has saved more than $50,000 as a result of just one recommendation that Kevin gave in dealing with an injection molder. Kevin also has been able to use his lifelong contacts to give Paul leads to other potential advisers with expertise.

And here's another example:

[Comcast] may not have deep roots in Hollywood, but it has friends who do. For more than two months, two former high-ranking Fox entertainment executives -- Peter Chernin and Peter Liguori -- have been counseling Comcast Corp. as it negotiates with General Electric Co. to take control of NBC Universal....

Advice such as this can be invaluable.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Designs just fade away (the Gonzo Corporation logo)

I don't know about you, but when I think of the word "gonzo," I think of either Hunter S. Thompson or a Muppet.

But there's a company that wants you to think of the term "gonzo" diferently. Now I have very little design expertise, but I can certainly admire the logo used by the Gonzo Corporation.

The logo, which completely fades away by the time you get to the "O," makes sense when you look at the Gonzo Corporation's product line.

At the Gonzo Corporation, we constantly strive to develop unique and effective household cleaning products for you the consumer. Right now, we have eighteen products that rid your home of almost every nuisance that you may encounter. No matter what your troubles: unpleasant odors, stains, bacteria, dust, dirt or hair, Gonzo has the product for you.

The theme carries on to a UMass Amherst page devoted to the Schultz family, founders of the Gonzo Corporation (and subsequent developers of Wonder Tablitz). The title of the page? "A Family History of Cleaning Up."

Friday, December 16, 2011

(empo-tymshft) How online education is influenced by social interactivity

Last weekend, my father-in-law and I were listening to a sports radio station and heard an ad for an online degree in sports management. We both took notice, because it was offered in conjunction with the school from which my wife (his daughter) graduated. Once known as Concordia College River Forest, it is now known as Concordia University Chicago - yeah, they pulled the Rita Moreno of Arte thing and renamed themselves after the nearby big city. Information on the sports management program, which offers master's and doctoral degrees, can be found here.

When we mentioned this to my wife, we remembered that one of her relatives - thus, one of my in-laws - is actually teaching at Concordia University Chicago now, and her area of expertise is in online programs.

I hunted around, and while I couldn't find any of Dr. Ardelle Pate's publications, I did find an abstract of an article that was published here.

Title: Questioning the Necessity of Nonacademic Social Discussion Forums within Online Courses

Authors: Pate, Ardelle; Smaldino, Sharon; Mayall, Hayley J.; Luetkehans, Lara

Source: Quarterly Review of Distance Education, v10 n1 p1-8 2009

Abstract: Within the online environment, social interactivity is a necessity to the formation of knowledge. Learning, in order to be truly effective, must embody a social element that nurtures an individual through the multi-intelligences of a group while it also embraces and fosters an individual to recognize self-efficacy. The idea of successful learning within a social environment has been reiterated by educational theorists. Some researchers have indicated the importance of providing time and activities for establishing a social presence within a friendly online environment. By establishing a social presence, learners support each other in their quest for knowledge, and the group dynamic enhances critical thinking within the community of learners. The purpose of this research was to examine the social interactions of required academic discussion forums, optional academic discussion forums, and optional nonacademic social discussion forums to see whether different types of forums actually enhance the sense of social presence. The intent was to see if these forums contributed to a social sense of community, which was intended to enhance learning and broaden the individual's role in the community of learners.

This is all a new world to me, because I have never taken an academic course in an online setting. (My most recent academic coursework was completed in 1991.) And the online courses that I have taken, mostly during my time at Motorola, were pretty much canned courses without live interaction with a professor or students.

While I do not have access to the conclusions of Pate et al, one would intuitively think that social interactivity would contribute to the online educational experience. After all, much of my learning at Reed College and at Cal State Fullerton took place in small groups, some of which were away from the formal class. If an online course merely consists of direct interaction with the professor/instructor, you're only getting part of the experience.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Back to this living person thing again (from Sports Illustrated)

Remember my post from December 7 which talked about the dangers of naming things after living persons? The link talked about the Patrick J. Sullivan Detention Facility, named after a former sheriff; years later, Sullivan found himself there - as a detainee.

Sullivan isn't the only widely-honored living person who was later called into question.

The December 12 Sports Illustrated included a letter to the editor from Robert Steckel of Amherst, Virginia. The letter addressed the reputation of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who has been accused of not doing enough to stop former assistant coach and author Jerry Sandusky from molesting boys. (Of course, Paterno is not the only one who has been faulted in this episode.)

Two sentences from Steckel's letter stand out:

Is the Paterno we saw before this scandal the real one, or just an idealized front? I don't know the answer, but the fact it seems appropriate to ask says a lot.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ex-Presidents and Ex-CEOs - could the latter behave like the former?

I am fascinated with the office of the Presidency of the United States. Perhaps because I am an American, I feel that it is a unique position, unequaled by any other position in the world. On the other hand, the executive of my country shares some characteristics with executives of other countries and organizations, including executives of business firms.

What would happen if we treated business firm executives similar to the way in which we treat Presidents? I'm talking about the good things here - namely, an effort to preserve the history of the executive in question - not only an account of the person's life, but also an exploration of the factors which shaped the executive. Now perhaps we have a deep understanding of some executives - Steve Jobs is an obvious, oft-studied example - but what of others?

From that perspective, it's fascinating to read some of the excerpts from an address delivered on August 10, 1962. The occasion was the dedication of the Herbert Hoover Library Museum in West Branch, Iowa. (The location itself is interesting - Hoover by this time lived in New York City, and had long been associated with California, but the library was located in Iowa, where Hoover grew up.) The remarks below were delivered by someone from a neighboring state - another former President of the United States, Harry Truman. In addition to holding the job that Hoover had once held, Truman was a keen student of history. Some of his remarks on the Presidency should be viewed in that light.

I have always been very much interested in the history of the Presidency. I have always been very much interested in the preservation of that history in a manner that can be properly taken care of and that can be available to the youngsters of this coming generation, in whom is imposed now the welfare of this great nation of ours -- the greatest republic in the history of the world.

The Presidency, and I don't say that because I have been President of the United States, is the most important office in the history of the world. And you don't get it by inheritance, you don't get it by any other way except by the people wanting you to be President of the United States, and then you have the greatest responsibility in the history of the world. Nobody knows that better than I do and I've had one hell of a time with it, I don't mind telling you....

You don't know how much I appreciate the privilege of being invited to come here and take part in the opening of this great Library of President Herbert Hoover. I think the world of him, as I said before. He did a job for me that nobody else in the world could have done, he kept millions of people from starving to death after the Second World War just as he did after the First World War for Woodrow Wilson, and when I asked him if he would be willing to do the job he never hesitated one minute, he said "Yes, Mr. President, I'll do it" And he did a most wonderful job of keeping these people from starving, and what more can a man do? As the Admiral has told you about his record and his career, it is unequalled in the history of this country. I've always been fond of him, and of course after he saved all of these people from starving I feel that I am one of his closest friends and he is one of my closest friends and that's the reason I am here....

It's a great thing and I want to say to you, you youngsters, you'd better start studying the Presidency of the United States and how it works because one of you one of these days will be President of the United States, but I wouldn't advise you to try to be because if you ever get there you'll be sorry you were there -- the happiest day I ever spent in my life was the day I left the White House.

A couple of things should be noted. First, in speaking at the Hoover Library dedication, Truman was returning a favor, since Hoover had spoken at the dedication of the Truman Library on July 6, 1957.

Second, for those who are a little rusty on 20th century history, Truman and Hoover had vastly divergent political opinions. While Truman admired Hoover's humanitarian work, he took several swipes at Hoover's presidency during the Presidential campaigns of 1958 and 1952 (when Truman campaigned on Stevenson's behalf). Yet despite this, Truman and Hoover found common ground, much as Ford and Carter found common ground after the conclusions of their Presidencies, and Bush 41 and Clinton found common ground after their Presidencies had ended.

Now business organizations sometimes have instances in which a new leader takes over from a former one in less than pleasant circumstances - similar to the way in which the Republicans win the White House from the Democrats and vice versa. But I can't think of any situations in which a business leader actively seeks advice from someone that he or she displaced. While Truman invited Hoover to talk about post-war famine relief, and Carter asked for Ford's help in the Panama Canal treaty debates, can anyone name a time when Steve Jobs asked Gil Amelio for help? Or Gil Amelio asked Michael Spindler? Or Michael Spindler asked John Sculley? Or John Sculley went to NeXT for advice?

I know that executives are perceived as part of the exclusive 1%, but perhaps ex-executives should treat themselves as members of a former club, just like ex-Presidents do. Now in some cases that might not be possible - for example, Mark Hurd's duties at Oracle probably preclude him from advising Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard - but perhaps in some cases, some friendly advice from the ex might be helpful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Real names policy in the 20th century

If anyone believes that the current "real names" issues being investigated by companies such as Google and Facebook are easy to solve, they just need to take a look at history.

This was illustrated to me in one of my job changes - actually, my job stayed the same, but the company changed. At one point there was a change of e-mail servers, and the new e-mail server used our official names, rather than the names that we often used. When the change was implemented, we had to spend a lot of time matching the e-mail addresses to the people that we knew. And I'm not just talking about using "Jack" or "Johnny" instead of "John." For example, Person X's official name was a hyphenated name; therefore, instead of searching the e-mail directory for "Smith, Sue," we had to search the e-mail directory for "Jones-Smith, Sue."

But it was very hard to find some of our Asian employees. If you have met an Asian (often a Chinese person) who was not born in the United States, you may find that the person has a nice, English-sounding given name. If you think about it, you'll probably realize that this is not the person's real given name, and that the person has adopted an English-sounding name to get along in a predominantly English culture. But in some cases, the person may also use a different FAMILY name. I knew one person who used an Asian family name that was easier to pronounce than the person's REAL Asian family name.

Now one might think that the overseas Chinese/Asian tendency to adopt English-sounding names is something that is forced upon them by ugly Americans. But it turns out that there is also a tendency to adopt English-sounding names in the People's Republic of China. Mao must be turning over in his grave. Take the experience of Huan Hsu, an American who moved to Shanghai:

When I moved to Shanghai about a year ago, I figured my name would finally seem "normal." No longer would it be the albatross of my childhood in Utah—making me stand out among the Johns, Steves, and Jordans. But when I introduced myself, I was met with blank stares, double takes, and requests for my English name. People—Chinese people—often wondered whether I were being patronizing, like the fabled Frenchman who icily responds in English to an earnest American's attempts to get directions en français. My company almost didn't process my paperwork because I left the box for "English name" blank. "You don't have an English name?" the HR woman gasped. "You should really pick one." She then waited for me to do just that, as if I could make such an important existential decision on the spot; I told her I'd get back to her. People—Chinese people—had trouble recalling my name. One guy at work, a Shanghai-born VP, called me "Steve" for almost three months. At my workplace, which is 90 percent mainland Chinese, just about everyone I interacted with had an English name, usually selected or received in school. The names ran the gamut, from the standard (Jackie, Ivy) to the unusual (Sniper, King Kong), but what really struck me was how commonly people used them when addressing one another, even when the rest of the conversation was in Chinese.

Well, perhaps the English names were needed during the early Deng Xiaoping era, when Westerners were coming over to China with the business smarts. But China certainly has business smarts of its own today. So why do the English names persist?

Increasingly, these bosses are Chinese, yet the English names persist, in part because English tends to be the lingua franca for business technology, and even native Chinese often find it more efficient to type, write, or sign documents in English. Using English names also creates a more egalitarian atmosphere. Most forms of address in China reinforce pecking orders, such as "Third Uncle" and "Second Daughter" at home or "Old Wang" or "Little Hu" in the village square....

[Chinese] insisted that taking an English name isn't kowtowing, nor is it simply utilitarian. Rather, it's essential to being Chinese and achieving Chinese goals. Whereas in the past patriotism was expressed by self-sacrifice, it is now expressed through economic activity. So by working for, say, 3M, Chinese citizens are helping to build up China, and the English names they take on in the process are as patriotic as Cultural Revolution-era monikers like Ai Guo (Loves China) or Wei Dong (Mao's Protector).

In actuality, Chinese sometimes have multiple names - Mao's wife had several - but the practice is not limited to China. If you mention the names "Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov" or "Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili" to your average anti-Communist, he or she may not have any idea who you're talking about. (If you don't recognize the names either, perhaps you weren't aware that "Lenin" and "Stalin" were pseudonyms.)

But my favorite example was a former co-worker from Thailand who is of Chinese ancestry. As English Premier League fans know, Thai names can be rather long. My co-worker, therefore, usually went by his Chinese name: Lee Mee.

Of course, today he probably goes by the name Jack.

Monday, December 12, 2011

If I had a hammer...

...I'd be vilified by the 99% for my warlike materialism.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Briefs (brevity gone horribly wrong)

In the age of Twitter, many of us are often challenged to say something as concisely as possible.

This not only occurs on Twitter, but in other forms of communication, such as headings to document sections.

The U.S. Department of Labor has provided an Equal Employment Opportunity poster (PDF) that summarizes Federal laws that protect employees from discrimination in various areas. Each paragraph on the poster is preceded by a descriptive, but concise, heading.

However, one of the headings in the "Private Employment" column may be a little TOO concise:


That heading conveys a meaning that the U.S. Department of Labor probably didn't want to convey...

Friday, December 9, 2011

#D2R - and #N2R and #O2R and #S2R and #A2R and #J2R

The hashtag #D2R stands for "December to Remember," and it certainly will be a December to remember for Seth Burroughs, Elizabeth Robblee, and Ben Byers. This is the month they lost their jobs after a number of indiscreet tweets that they issued from their workplace - their workplace being the Washington, DC office of U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen of the state of Washington. Here's how the Seattle Times described the tweets:

The Twitter feeds were filled with comments about watching Nirvana videos on taxpayers' dime, swigging "Jack" behind desks and other depictions of congressional staffers behaving badly....

One tweet from @TheRocketship1, the handle for Burroughs, read: "I'm pretty sure I couldn't pass a field sobriety test right now. Looking forward to a day in the office."

On Dec. 1, Robblee asked Burroughs, "were you just drinking jack and coffee during your meeting?"

Many of the tweets over the last few days (since deleted) were devoted to antics in the staffers' December to Remember, and included the hashtag #D2R.

Unfortunately for the congressman, the tweets didn't start on December 1.

On July 21, Burroughs tweeted: "Dear taxpayers — I hope you don't mind that I'm watching YouTube clips of Nirvana at my government job. Thanks, you're the best."

Hey, at least Nirvana was a local band, so Seth Burroughs was promoting the local economy.

But if you add it up, the staffers had been issuing inappropriate tweets on the job for over four months.

If you're a boss, what are your co-workers tweeting about YOU and about your workplace? It appears that #D2R is spreading like wildfire. Look at this incriminating tweet from @EdHillDC:

I'm drinking diet coke and working on veterans bill for my boss. #D2R

Well, I'm going to go beyond @EdHillDC's reckless behavior. When I draft the proposal transmittal letter this morning, I'm going to drink a mochaccino! And I've been writing about that little drink for years...

P.S. Seth Burroughs will probably be updating his LinkedIn profile soon.

As will Ben Byers. Perhaps DeLaurenti Specialty Food and Wine is hiring.

Xerox research in the 21st century

Back in October, I wrote a "what if" post that wondered what would have happened if Xerox had patented the Internet. The scenario, which ended up with Xerox using the Internet technologies to benefit enterprises rather than consumers, was obviously rooted in Xerox's 1970s-era concentration on photocopier technology.

Well, Xerox has changed, most notably from its acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS). As FastCompany notes in an article on Xerox's Ursula Burns, less than half of Xerox's revenue comes from technology these days. And Xerox continues to perform research - some at its famous Palo Alto research center, and some at another location:

Some reside within a chateau that houses the Xerox Research Centre Europe near Grenoble in the French Alps....The center was founded in 1993 to help Xerox prepare for a future when its technology products (printers and paper copiers) became a commodity, and when business services (to help Xerox customers work faster and cheaper) would be the way forward. "We were a document company at the beginning and it was very important to figure out how we could extract what was in the documents to automate certain things," says Monica Beltrametti, a PhD in theoretical physics and the founding director of the center.

Under Beltrametti's watch, Xerox machines have increasingly learned to understand languages, analyze photos, and route data in a fraction of the time that it takes error-prone humans.

One example was cited in the FastCompany article. ACS is involved with the technology for the square "EZPass" transponders that are used to collect tolls. Nice technology, but the transponders can get damaged or lost.

When [ACS' Lynn Blodgett] asked Beltrametti if Xerox had a machine that could read a license plate--thus eliminating the transponder entirely--she told him yes, and then upped the ante. "'Would it help you if it could read the registration as well? Or if the license plate was held on by wire instead of a bolt?'"--a sign that the car might be stolen. Blodgett was impressed. "I told her yes it would. It would help me a lot."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Virtual worlds - nothing to get hung about?

Track Impunity Always (TRIAL) is a Swiss organization that, in its words, participates "in the fight against impunity for the perpetrators accomplices and instigators of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of torture." Back in 2009, it co-sponsored a study on the extent in which humanitarian law is reflected in popular video games.

Guess what? Often it's not.

[T]he rules of international humanitarian law are often not taken into consideration within the game design. This may not be surprising, as these computer and video games are not meant to serve as didactical tools to teach the rules of war, but rather to entertain their players. The practically complete absence of rules or sanctions is nevertheless astonishing: civilians or protected objects such as churches or mosques can be attacked with impunity, in scenes portraying interrogations it is possible to torture, degrade or treat the prisoner inhumanely without being sanctioned for it and extrajudicial executions are simulated.

Obviously TRIAL has its opinions on the matter, and it made a recommendation:

[At least a few] games show that it is indeed possible to include rules of international humanitarian law and human rights in war games. It is regrettable that game producers hardly ever use this possibility to creatively incorporate the rules of international law or even representatives of such rules (such as the ICRC or the international criminal courts etc.) as specific elements in the course of the game. Pro Juventute and TRIAL call upon the producers of computer and video games to use their strong creativity and innovation for this purpose. It would mean a wasted opportunity if the virtual space transmitted the illusion of impunity for unlimited violence in armed conflicts.

Recommendations are recommendations, and whether gamers agree with it or not, there's certainly no harm in TRIAL recommending the incorporation of aspects of international law into video games.

But what if the recommendations go beyond recommendations? Enter the International Red Cross, where this topic was raised during a December 1 conference session (PDF).

Video games and IHL: how should the Movement take action?

While the Movement works vigorously to promote international humanitarian law (IHL) worldwide, there is also an audience of approximately 600 million gamers who may be virtually violating IHL. Exactly how video games influence individuals is a hotly debated topic, but for the first time, Movement partners discussed our role and responsibility to take action against violations of IHL in video games. In a side event, participants were asked: “what should we do, and what is the most effective method?” While National Societies shared their experiences and opinions, there is clearly no simple answer.

There is, however, an overall consensus and motivation to take action.

And how do you take action against those who are "virtually violating" international humanitarian law?

One of the world's largest and most respected humanitarian groups in the world is investigating whether the Geneva and Hague conventions should be applied to the fictional recreation of war in video games.

If they agree those standards should be applied, the International Committee of the Red Cross says they may ask developers to adhere to the rules themselves or "encourage" governments to adopt laws to regulate the video game industry.

Yes, the teenage boy in the bedroom could be a war criminal, just like Adolf Eichmann, Osama bin Laden, and Hideki Tojo. Or so it appeared in some of the articles that started to appear.

As the headlines spread, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued the statement that I have reproduced below. So everyone who's upset at the Red Cross can calm down and go back to donating at your local blood bank.

Hmm, blood bank. Sounds violent.

Here is the ICRC statement:

Is there a place for the laws of armed conflict in video games?
08-12-2011 FAQ

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement recently discussed the implications of video games that simulate real-war situations and the opportunities the games may present for spreading knowledge of the laws of armed conflict. Some questions and answers on this subject are provided below.

Why is the ICRC interested in video games that simulate real warfare?

The ICRC is interested in issues relating to video games of this type, i.e. games simulating warfare where players face choices just like on a real battlefield.

In real life, armed forces are subject to the laws of armed conflict. Video games simulating the experience of armed forces therefore have the potential to raise awareness of the rules that those forces must comply with whenever they engage in armed conflict – this is one of the things that interests the ICRC. As a matter of fact, certain video games already take into account how real-life military personnel are trained to behave in conflict situations.

Part of the ICRC's mandate, conferred on it by States, is to promote respect for international humanitarian law – also known as the law of armed conflict – and universal humanitarian principles. Given this mandate and the ICRC's long history and expertise in matters relating to armed conflict, the development of these games is clearly of interest to the organization.

A few media reported that certain virtual acts performed by characters in video games could amount to serious violations of the law of armed conflict. Is this correct?

No. Serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations, not in video games.

Does the ICRC work with video-game developers to make sure the law of armed conflict features in certain games?

The ICRC has expressed its readiness to engage in a dialogue with the video gaming industry in order to explore the place of humanitarian rules in games. The ICRC welcomes the fact that certain video games on war-related themes already take the law of armed conflict into account.

Shouldn't the ICRC be primarily concerned with real-life warfare?

Absolutely, and real-life armed conflict and its humanitarian consequences are in fact its primary concern.

With its roughly 12,000 staff, the ICRC carries out humanitarian activities in situations of armed violence all over the world. It is often the first organization to arrive on the scene when conflict erupts and to attend to the needs of people detained, displaced or otherwise affected. It also strives to bring about improved compliance with the law of armed conflict and thereby contribute to creating an environment conducive to respect for the dignity of persons affected.

Why does the ICRC show interest in video games but not, for example, in books, comics, TV series or films?

The ICRC is occasionally approached by filmmakers or authors who want to portray its activities in past or present armed conflicts. It has thus had contacts with various segments of the entertainment world beyond the developers of video games. The ICRC is not interested in all video games – only in those simulating armed conflict. Some of these games are being designed and produced by the same companies developing simulated battlefields for the training of armed forces.

What was said on this subject at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent?

The 31st International Conference met in November 2011 in Geneva with the overall objective of strengthening international humanitarian law and humanitarian action. In a side event, participants also explored the role that the law of armed conflict plays, or does not play, in simulations of war. They considered various ways in which the rules applicable in armed conflict could feature in simulations. The side event was an informal discussion; no resolution or plan of action was adopted.

Generalization and specialization are everywhere

(Apologies in advance to the non-Americans for the large amount of Zeds in this post.)

Each of us has specific knowledge in some areas, and lacks specific knowledge in other areas. It is not enough to say that Person A is "technical" and person B is "not technical" - in reality, person B knows a bunch of stuff that person A doesn't know. Someone who knows every Internet service port number may not know the difference between EJ and The Other EJ in the Meaty Cheesy Boys. Even a biometric expert who knows all about the Type-17 iris record in the ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2007 standard may not know about the Type-18 DNA record in the ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011 standard.

In short, there are times when people know a lot more than you about a specific topic, and there are times when you know a lot more than someone else about a specific topic.

Yet you somehow have to communicate with the other person, even if the person is an imbecile who doesn't know EJ from The Other EJ. Trisha Torrey may not know about the Meaty Cheesy Boys (her loss), but she has written an article about effective patient-doctor communications. Torrey makes this point:

Good communications really boils down to two things: respect for each other, and the ability to manage expectations.

One of Torrey's suggestions is valuable for any situation in which the specialist uses strange acronyms or phrases:

Doctors are trained to use a lexicon of med-speak that baffles us patients. General medical terms are used by all doctors or many specialties. Other words and concepts are specific to body systems, conditions, diseases or treatments. In all cases, you'll walk away much more satisfied from your visit, having learned what you need to know, if you stop your doctor and ask for a definition or description when he uses a concept or term you don't understand.

Whether you're a physician or a sanitary engineer, it's helpful to remember that your audience does not have the knowledge that you do, and that some terms may need further explanation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sorry, this isn't a plumbing blog

I was looking at the analytics for my October post about Total Plumbing Services in Alabama, and I was curious how people got to the page.

Were they searching for information on Alabama plumbers?

Were they searching for information on John Bredehoft (plumber, blogger, lawyer, doctor, or Indian chief)?

No. The majority of them were searching for a plumbing blog that featured Disqus comments.

Well, I hate to break it to the people that arrived here, but this is not a plumbing blog. If you want a true plumbing blog, visit the blog for Schoonover Plumbing & Heating, at

And be sure to leave them a Disqus comment; their most recent post didn't have any until I came along.

Why you should never name something after a living person - the Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility

I don't have to worry about this happening personally, but I have a strong belief that monuments should not be erected to people who are still living. Whether you're talking about a park, or a school, or whatever, it is premature to honor someone while he or she is still alive.

The person might be the greatest person in the world, but - but -

Let's take the Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility in Colorado. This jail was named in honor of a former Arapahoe County Sheriff, honored as sheriff of the year. According to an Arapahoe County web page:

The Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility has come a long way since Arapahoe County opened its one-room jail house in 1865. Located at 7375 S. Potomac St., Centennial, the Detention Facility, which opened in 1987 and renamed by the Board of County Commissioners in 2002 to honor former Sheriff Patrick J. Sullivan, is a 299,241-square-foot facility with the capacity to house 1,166 inmates.

Sullivan retired in 2002...and ran into trouble in 2011, caught in a sting operation in which he would only deal meth to men who had sex with him.

Arapahoe County people are shocked, but it just goes to show that you never know who a person is, or who a person will become.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Don't remember the Alamo - "tweet seats" in theaters

Last month I wrote about the Alamo Drafthouse, who REALLY doesn't like it when people text in its theaters. When an irate caller left a message after being thrown out of a theater, the Alamo Drafthouse turned the call into a public service announcement.

The Alamo Drafthouse's opposition to texting in theaters is not universal.

Shawn Rossi shared the story of the "tweet seats" phenomenon in which certain establishments, including the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh NC, the Dayton Opera in Dayton OH, and the Indianapolis Symphony in Indianapolis IN, permit people in the back rows of the theater to use their smartphones to their heart's content. (Glencoe, IL does not have a "tweet seat" section.) Mara Siegler:

Those on board with using social media during performances tout it as a way to let others now their feelings and reactions in live time, and as a participatory function that allows them to be a part of the performance from their seats.

Hmm, sounds like what happens when we cover Larry Ellison during Oracle OpenWorld, except that the music isn't as loud and the visuals aren't as red.

East coast girls are hip, I really dig those styles they wear

I was recently copied on the following e-mail correspondence:

Last year you provided me with quite a bit of information regarding [REDACTED] that I shared with those in attendance. (I think it helped distract the crowd from the fact that I was the only guy there who didn't wear a suit.)

I have lived in California for over a quarter century now, and I have worked for tech companies for most of that time. And I am well aware that the attire that I wear here is substantially different from the attire that I would be wearing at a brokerage firm in New York City.

As I write this, I am in a "dressy" mode - namely, I have long sleeves on my dark red shirt. And my shoes even have laces.

Suit and tie? I don't think I've worn those since my father's funeral several months ago - despite the fact that I've been to church numerous times over the last several months. Yes, the churches in California are a little more casual also.

As much as I would prefer that the world valued content over appearance, I am forced to admit that if I wore my dark red shirt with no tie into certain business environments, I would not be taken seriously.

But it works the other way also. If one of my (non-executive) co-workers were to show up at my cubicle in a suit and tie, or in a business dress, my first inclination would be to ask which customer was in town. Or if the person was going to a job interview. Or if THAT person's father had died.

Attire still matters.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fighting back against "marketing free"

Way back in 2005, I encountered a description of a series of sessions that was advertised as "marketing free."

Marketing Free

If you’ve ever been frustrated when a technical training session turns into a sales or marketing pitch then HP World 2005 is for you! This year Interex will offer a complete line-up of “Marketing Free” sessions so that attendees can be sure that they will get only the purest technical information directly from highly respected industry experts. Attendees can look for the “Marketing Free” symbol in the conference catalog to easily identify these sessions.

Plus, now you can take matters into your own hands! Every conference attendee will receive a “No Marketing” sign in their conference tote bags. If sales or marketing information begins to intrude into a “Marketing Free” session, attendees can fight back by hold up their “No Marketing” signs to let the speaker know that he/she has veered off course. Power to the people!

Needless to say, marketers such as myself were highly offended.

The issue still makes headlines, and this McKinsley Quarterly article (addressed to marketers and salespeople) makes an entirely different statement about what customers want.

At the end of the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product—it is the product. They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience—it is the experience. In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.

According to authors Tom French, Laura LaBerge, and Paul Magill, customers don't want "marketing free" sessions. They want "marketing permeated" sessions.

However, it's probably all a bunch of semantics.

Let's say that you're the geekiest engineer around, and that you're going to an Interex session that discusses the Widget Macrominimizer 2.03b6 in excruciating technical detail. As you are walking through Moscone South, you pass a sign that advertises a session for the Finnishlotsavowels Macrominimizer 0.91.

Both sessions are occurring at the same time.

How do you decide which session to attend? What criteria do you use to make this decision?

On the other hand, let's go to our marketing pro, camped out with her tablet at the indie coffeeshop (no corporate Starbucks colored water for her). She's been assigned the Finnishlotsavowels account, and is prepping for the 1.0 release (she makes a note to herself - "delete the release number from the copy"). She is busily conceptualizing the needs of ALL of the various stakeholders - the engineering directors, the CIOs, the purchasing agents, and...oh yes...the users.

How does she know what all of these stakeholders need? While she may be an ace marketer, our latte-sipping expert cannot empathize with the needs of engineering managers or the other stakeholders, unless she happened to have held one of these positions in a previous life. And chances are that any marketing person has not been an engineering director AND a CIO AND a purchasing agent AND a geeky coder. (Unless the marketing person once headed a tech startup.)

At the end of the day, people require real content in the presentations and publications that they read. At the same time, they require marketing messages that answer the question "So what?"

Rural Chinese and the Wedding Computer

I found this nugget buried at the end of a FastCompany article on Lenovo. Among other things, the article talks about Lenovo stores, which are kind of like Apple Stores except (a) there are a lot more of them, and (b) you can find them in rural areas.

The majority of Lenovo's Chinese outlets are in rural areas, poised to sell computers to the millions who have never owned them. Today it's their first PC, tomorrow their first tablet or smartphone....The rural stores offer Lenovo's most affordable desktops. Priced at less than $500, they come preloaded with applications to help farmers price their crops and with features such as one-button instant messaging to simplify tasks for first-time computer users.

One of the more popular Lenovo products in rural China is the wedding computer. Rural families will often pool their money to buy a bride and groom their first PC. The wedding computer comes in red, which Chinese consider to be the luckiest color.

But when you give a wedding computer, stay away from mentioning one critical internal component:

Whatever you buy, do not give the couple a FAN as gift since the pronunciation of fan is "san", which means "disperse" in Chinese, thus considered a bad omen...