Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Abbie Hoffman never wrote for the web

Peter Kim recently wrote on the plague of plagiarism. I don’t really see it as a plague, having your work copied is merely a byproduct of producing digital content. Many fight it. I’ve put it to work for my music and I do the same for the words I write.

Steal this blog post. I’m not joking. Copy-paste this post onto your own blog or site. You can credit me if you want to (this blog is registered under a creative commons license meaning you’re encouraged to do this) but if you don’t want to, that’s just fine.


I want to see my ideas spread

I don’t necessarily care if my name is always behind them. Which is a good thing, because I (John Bredehoft) did not write any of the stuff that preceded this sentence. All of it was lifted, verbatim, from a post entitled Steal This Blog Post by Adam Singer.

OK, from here on in I'll properly credit him. (Man, I hope Singer isn't a member of the Associated Press; if he is, I probably racked up a huge bill there.)

Why is Singer willing to let his ideas float away, as it were? Two main arguments of Singer's deserve attention:
  • First, he notes that scraper sites are so obvious that people would immediately know that the scraper site was not the originator of the idea. (I've written about scraper sites before.) While he's right, there are exceptions to the rule. I knew of a case in which two professionals, who worked at the same company (not any of my employers), both had blogs. One would write a blog with original content, while the second would merely copy what the first person wrote, without attributing it to him. As far as I know, there was no malice intended - the second person wanted the first person's ideas to be available to more people - but by the same token, the second person didn't explicitly acknowledge that another person had written the material. The site looked nothing like a scraper site, but it was a scraper site nonetheless.

  • Singer's second point is related to the first - namely, that in the end, the original result will be higher in searches than the copycat site. Not necessarily! What if the original post was written by an obscure writer, and the copycat post was written by a more popular writer, and/or was posted on a more popular website? It can happen.
Singer does say some additional things about what to do when content is copied, but I encourage you to go to the original post and read them.

P.S. If you don't get the Abbie Hoffman reference, read this Wikipedia article. A bunch of people wrote it.

P.P.S. By appropriating Singer's work, I am in a sense violating a principle which Chris Brogan recently enunciated regarding the dangers of tagging on to a popular brand - enunciations, incidentally, with which I heartily agree. I'd comment on this, but then I'd be ripping off Alanis Morissette.

(Picture source, license)

(empo-utoobd) Duncan Riley's YouTube story, January 2009

Duncan Riley, who runs the Inquisitr, has had several issues with YouTube, but this one is the most interesting. Riley talked about this on a January 2009 blog post, YouTube Now Blocks Copyright Material First, Asks Questions Later. In essence, Riley gets pitches from various people who want Inquisitr exposure. For example:

On January 23 we received an email from one of our regular PR contacts...for the upcoming film Sunshine Cleaning. The email included links to private downloads for the movie, including a trailer and poster. I downloaded the trailer this morning, ran it through iMovie for processing, then uploaded it to YouTube so we could run it on The Inquisitr.

So Riley uploaded material which he had permission to reproduce. And what happened?

Imagine then my surprise that after the clip had finished prcoessing, YouTube immediately identified it as being in breach of copyright and didn’t allow it to go up.

However, unlike the people who receive "your account has been permanently disabled" messages, YouTube DOES have an avenue for upload issues. Riley used that avenue, YouTube quickly agreed that Riley had the right to upload the material, and everything was solved. But Riley still wondered:

[W]hy has YouTube seemingly abandoned the DMCA process in favor of blocking material upfront, and automatically presuming that the uploader isn’t authorized to share the material?

So what is the "DMCA process" to which Riley referred? Let's see what...oh...Google says about it.

To file a notice of infringement with us, you must provide a written communication (by fax or regular mail -- not by email, except by prior agreement) that sets forth the items specified below. Please note that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is infringing your copyrights.

Google then states what someone needs to submit to claim a copyright violation, and talks about the counter-statement that the alleged infringer can provide.

Riley's concern is that Google didn't wait for a copyright infringement notice, but simply decided on its own - incorrectly - that Riley was uploading unauthorized material.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Expedia reverses single sign-on, doesn't say why

Single sign-on services are all the rage, and are very helpful to people like me who have accounts everywhere. For example, I had never bothered to join Digg because that would require me to set up yet another account. But once I discovered that I could log in to Digg via Facebook Connect, I set up an account and started Digging stuff.

But back before single sign-on was really really cool, companies like Microsoft were doing it. Today the service is called Windows Live ID, but back in the last millennium it was called Microsoft Wallet:

Microsoft Wallet can be used to store address and payment information for online shopping. It is included with typical and full installations of Internet Explorer 4.x, the full installation of Internet Explorer 5, and it is also included in Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition. Address and payment information can be managed from the Content tab in Internet Options. To view the Content tab, click Internet Options on the View menu in Internet Explorer 4.x, or click Internet Options on the Tools menu in Internet Explorer 5 and Windows 98 Second Edition.

Internet Explorer 5.01 no longer includes Microsoft Wallet, and the management options formerly on the Content tab will no longer be present after Internet Explorer 5.01 or Windows 2000 is installed. You can still add addresses and credit card information to Microsoft Wallet from any Web site that uses the Wallet control.

Well, the service went through several names, most notably Microsoft Passport, and is now known as Windows Live ID.

How does it work? For example, if you wanted to book a flight via Expedia, you'd use the same password that you would use for your Microsoft account (Hotmail, MSN, whatever). I actually booked travel through Expedia because of this, since it was easy to manage.

Well, today I wanted to check flight availability for a personal trip, so I automatically went to Expedia. But when I went to log in, I got this message:

After reading the statement "Sorry, Passport/Windows Live ID is no longer supported," I clicked on the "Why?" button. The explanation really didn't explain:

As we work to continuously improve the service we provide you, it's sometimes necessary to make changes. Unfortunately, recent upgrades required we end our support of Passport/Windows Live ID service.

Yeah, right. Everyone else is moving toward single sign-on, with OpenID here and Facebook Connect there, and Expedia is moving away? Would this have to do with Microsoft's 2008 acquisition of Farecast? Or perhaps that when you go to Farecast's old website, you're redirected to Bing Travel, which allows you to compare prices for Expedia AND its competitors?

Regardless of the real reason for the change, Jamie Thomson wasn't pleased:

Taking away Live ID sign-in? Congratulations Expedia, you just lost took away the one thing that makes me use your site so now you’ve lost a customer!

Also see the reaction from Many pies.

But it could have been could have had an existing reservation on file when Expedia made the change. Look at what those people had to do:

Sign in as you would normally with your Passport account. A page opens indicating you need to change the password for your Expedia account.

Enter the email address Expedia uses to contact you.

Select Reset Expedia Password. Expedia will send you an email titled "Reset your Expedia Password."

Within 24 hours, click the link in the email.

Reset your password on Expedia. Your Expedia account is now active. have to wait 24 hours to change your password? What if you need to make a reservation now? There's some crap for that:

You don't have to lose the travel you've already selected. When you signed in with Passport, a page opened called "Passport/Windows Live ID no longer supported." Do the following:

On this page, select Return to Sign-in page.

On the Sign-in page, select Continue as a guest.

Accept the terms and conditions.

Select Continue. You are now able to continue booking your travel.

Hmm...maybe it's easier to just not have an Expedia account at all.

Travelocity et al must be eating this up.

Sarah Palin's Hong Kong Speech

Back on September 1, I wrote a post entitled Businesses need some "outside the box" thinking. You betcha. The post looked at the announcement that former Alaska Governor and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was going to speak at the CLSA investor conference in Hong Kong. At the time, I speculated on the contents of Palin's speech:

After reading the press release, the invitation to Palin sounds reasonable. As a governor of an energy-rich state, she did influence global markets.

So, was I right? Let's look at the coverage of Palin's speech, starting with Nicole Ferraro's piece in Internet Evolution:

Just last week it was reported that the latest human being to take up a successful evangelizing presence on the site, and become a "Facebook phenom," is none other than the former Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin.

Yes. It's true. Since stepping down as governor because of... uh... some reason, Palin has taken to Facebooking, using her account to spread quality information about things like "death panels." Through Facebook, Palin gets her message out to the American people without having to deal with the hazards of talking to the public via the mainstream media.

(Because, you know, they might ask her a question, like: "Are you out of your mind, per chance?")

And, just in case you think it won't work, it's worth noting that she has nearly 900,000 Facebook "Supporters," which Politico states makes her the second most popular politician on Facebook -- behind that guy President Obama.

OK, Ferraro never discussed the CLSA conference, but then again, she never discussed what Palin was actually SAYING on Facebook either. Because, you see, the idea that someone would actually use social media tools to communicate is anathema to Internet Evolution...oh, wait a minute, it's OK to use social media to communicate - as long as you're not Sarah Palin.

CNBC actually DID cover Palin's speech. Now some in the baby seal clubber realm will note that CNBC is part of the same company that lets Keith Olbermann spew his anti-American views on TV, and the same company that sells America out to Iran. So some people will disregard anything that CNBC says - but then again, some people will disregard anything that Fox says because Rupert Murdoch is a secret Trilateralist or whatever.

So what did Palin say, according to CNBC...

...oh, wait a minute, this is Associated Press coverage, so I can't quote it without paying through the nose. Let's just say that Palin used the following words:

...Main Street...

And to keep the AP off my back, that's all I'll say about that.

Luckily for me, Robert Fisk of the Independent doesn't work for the Associated Press. Unluckily for me, Fisk had an ax (or is it axe?) to grind:

Grotesque, unprecedented, bizarre, unbelievable. Sarah Palin was all of that in Hong Kong yesterday. And more. Dressed in a cutesy virgin-white blouse and black skirt with the infamous bee-hive hairdo, she was a blessing to every predicting spectator.

C'mon, talking about a female politician's attire. They'd never do that to Hillary Clinton. Oh, wait...they did.

So anyways, Fisk did look at some of what Palin said about Main Street:

But Alaska was more than just a fish market. It was "the air-crossroads to the world" where "Main Street, for me, it's a small town tucked between two mountain ranges". It went on and on. Alaska was "the last frontier", a "place where you can still feel that pioneering mountain spirit... It has shaped me."

Even if someone like Hillary Clinton had delivered this speech on the virtues of Alaska, I'm sure that the Hong Kong investors would have been completely mystified. Hong Kong is not necessarily a wonderful bastion of individualism - steeped in Chinese culture, administered as a colony by the United Kingdom, and now part of the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, for all its business dynamism, isn't exactly the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It appears that Palin's speech was a business-political speech, emphasizing Palin's belief on the political policies that would lead to a superior business climate.

Sarah quoted Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. She quoted Lincoln. She quoted Thomas Jefferson. History and common sense were not on the side of liberalism and "utopian pipe dreams". But there'd been progress. In the past, we had the "horse and buggy business", she said, then Ford came along with the motor car and the kids sat singing in the back, but now the kids have headsets.

But Fisk noted that Palin said a few things that might anger the dominant forces in her own party. In case you didn't recall, Palin is outside of the Washington establishment. And some of the things she said might cause the Beltway Boys to keel over.

And what happened to the Reagan legacy? "Many Republicans in Washington gambled it away."...

Addressing what was surely the neo-conservative wing of the Republican party, she could not "turn a blind eye" to Chinese policies that created "uncertainty", which supported "questionable regimes" and "made a lot of people nervous". America wasn't going to impose its values on other countries, but America was going to have to "ramp up" its defence spending.

However, despite Palin's popularity, we'll have to see how her future plays out. An argument can be made that the events of September 2008 were almost as significant as the effects of September 2001. In September 2008, the economy went into such a tailspin that even the neo-con's darling, George W. Bush, proposed a massive government intervention into the economy. While there are those who argue that Obama's policies are wrecking the country (while conveniently ignoring the policies purused by a Republican President just before Obama took office), the truth remains that any attempt to adopt a more hands-off attitude to the economy will probably be met with a quick rebuke such as, "Oh? Reinstitute the same policies that started the recession in the first place?"

Monday, September 28, 2009

(empo-tymshft) In praise of HyperCard

This is probably no surprise to you, but I have hardly any formal programming experience. Sure, I wrote some programs in junior high, high school, and college, but I've hardly ever been paid to program. The one exception? In one of my former jobs, I authored a HyperCard stack.

If the word HyperCard means nothing to you, I strongly encourage you to read this post that talks about the history of HyperCard. Even if you avoid Macintosh computers at all costs, HyperCard introduced many ideas into the popular consciousness.

HyperCard was a tool for making tools – Mac users could use Hypercard to build their own mini-programs to balance their taxes, manage sports statistics, make music – all kinds of individualized software that would be useful (or fun) for individual users. These little programs were called stacks, and were built as a system of cards that could be hyperlinked together. Building a HyperCard stack was remarkably easy, and the application quickly developed a devoted following.

HyperCard was the brain child of Bill Atkinson, one of Apple’s earliest employees, and the software engineer responsible for (among other things) the drop-down menu, the selection tool, and tabbed navigation. Bill played a big role in making the Mac what the Mac was – a personal computer that made the whole process of computing easy for the general public. HyperCard represented perhaps the bravest part of this ‘computing for the people’ philosophy, as it enabled users to go past the pre-built software that came on the machines, and to program and build software of their own.

The post then goes on to say:

HyperCard was the first real hyper-media program, paving the way for the web, and everything that came with it. It was used by thousands of people, and by most accounts, seemed to have been a fairly successful piece of software.

The software, however, was pretty much dead by the mid-1990s, but many of the ideas in HyperCard lived on as the World Wide Web took off, and people like me ended up writing blog posts like this that linked to other sources.

Powerful stuff.

(empo-utoobd) Jeff Pulver's YouTube story, October 2008

I've alluded to this a couple of times, but now it's time to revisit the Jeff Pulver-YouTube story and put it in context.

First off, let's review Jeff Pulver's mini-autobiography:

Jeff Pulver is the Chairman and Founder of, and one of the true pioneers of the VoIP industry and a leader in the emerging TV on the Net industry. Leveraging well over a decade of hands-on experience in Internet/IP communications and innovation, Mr. Pulver is a globally renowned thought leader, author and entrepreneur. His blog is well read within the IP Communications Industry and in high-tech communities around the world. He is the publisher of The Pulver Report and and creator of the industry standard Voice on the Net (VON) events. Additionally, Mr. Pulver is the founder of FWD, the VON Coalition, PrimeTimeRewind.TV, Vivox and is the co-founder of VoIP provider, Vonage.

(Uh...don't tell Jeff I signed up for Skype over the weekend.)

Anyway, Pulver's blog is at, and it includes post that go back to 2001.

In Pulver's October 5, 2008 post In Search Of: Customer Support from YouTube, he related what happened to him that day. Basically, he checked his YouTube account in the morning, and saw the "Your account has been permanently disabled" message. This was a surprise to him.

There has been no communication with me regarding why my account has been disabled. I have built a considerable audience and devoted an extraordinary amount of time and effort to attract viewers to my site and your service. It is confounding as to why this action has been taken. I presume, due to lack of notice, that this is simply a technical error or some other hiccup by YouTube.

Pulver then composed a letter to YouTube. The full text of the letter can be found at his post, but I'd like to extract a couple of points.

First, as noted above, Pulver had no notice that this was going to happen, or why it happened.

I have no clue why my account was disabled. If I have inadvertently done anything to violate YouTube rules, which I don’t believe I have, I hereby apologize and will work to correct any error on my part. But, I suspect the problem is an arbitrary decision or error on your end.

Second, Pulver discovered that he had lost all access to his data, even the data that was presumably compliant.

I request my YouTube account be reinstated. If for some reason that is not possible, I strongly request arranging some method so that I may be able DOWNLOAD and recover the archives of videos that I uploaded during the past couple of years.

I don't know whether Pulver specifically emailed the letter to anyone or not, or whether he just posted it on his (popular) blog. However, since Pulver had no way to contact YouTube about the issue, he had to issue a plea and a hope that someone from YouTube would see his post. And apparently someone did, because Pulver subsequently posted this comment:

My account has been restored!

Special thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. :)

Posted by: Jeff Pulver at October 8, 2008 03:47 PM

For whatever reason, Pulver did not reveal anything more than this, or whether he truly had material that violated YouTube's terms of service, or whether it was just a glitch.

The disturbing part from my perspective is that Pulver had no way to contact YouTube; he had to wait for YouTube to contact him.

P.S. If you want to see Pulver's YouTube channel, it's at

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Empoprise-BI News - 27 September 2009

Empoprise-BI News

The news letter for Empoprise-BI - An Empoprises vertical information service for business news.

Welcome to Empoprise-BI News

I just realized that RadioWeave's text to speech converter and I have a serious pronunciation dispute (not that I haven't had the same types of arguments with similar services, such as Odiogo). Whenever I think of the name of this blog in my brain, I always pronounce it as Empoprise Bee I, but when I listen to my Odiogo podcasts on the RadioWeave stream that I just set up for that purpose, I notice that the RadioWeave introduction renders the title of the blog as Empoprise Buy. Oh well, most of those reading the text think that "BI" stands for "business intelligence" anyway, and I can assure you, there's no business intelligence here!

To tell you the truth, I'm loving the RadioWeave service, although I haven't really explored it to its fullest potential.

Behind the Scenes

When I'm not listening to RadioWeave, or, or whatever (I haven't listened to a lot of YouTube the last few days), I'm outfitting myself with various communication devices, including a Google Voice number and a Skype account. If you have the pressing need to speak to me in audio form, you can contact me at the empoprises address that my Gmail dot com buddies have provided for me, and I'll give you the necessary coordinates.

Special Features

Just to give you a heads up - if you think that I'm writing a lot about Oracle right now, you may want to avoid this blog between October 11 and 15, when Oracle OpenWorld takes place. For various reasons, I'm definitely looking forward to this year's event, so don't be surprised if Empoprise-BI (that's Bee I) talks about the event a lot.


So what's coming up? Well, I'm continuing with my empo-utoobd series, but taking the focus off of myself. And I'm going to the other side of the world to look at the Mrs. Palin Goes to Hong Kong story (and why Nicole Ferraro just lost her chance at a Fox News slot). And there will be more things for your reading enjoyment.

(empo-utoobd) How YouTube Earned My Customer Service Darwin Award

In a previous post, I added a postscript about how Google yanked my YouTube account with no notification, only giving me the message "Your account has been permanently disabled." Finding a link that purported to provide me with more information, I clicked it. As I noted in the prior post, this resulted in the following email from Google:

Hi empoprises,

Thanks for your email. Your "empoprises" account has been found to have violated our Community Guidelines. Your account has now been terminated. Please be aware that you are prohibited from accessing, possessing or creating any other YouTube accounts.

YouTube staff review flagged videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate our Community Guidelines. When a video or account is brought to our attention we investigate and take action if necessary.

We are unable to provide specific detail regarding your account suspension or your video's removal. For more information on our what we consider inappropriate content or conduct while using YouTube, please visit our Community Guidelines and Tips at and our Help Center article at


The YouTube Team

My initial reaction, after noting that Jeff Pulver has had a similar experience, was to explore other stories of Google's policies regarding its terms of service. My story is relatively uninteresting, since I don't depend upon YouTube for business purposes. (In fact, I don't even depend upon it for personal purposes.)

Incidentally, after my initial reaction, I think I finally figured out what my violation may have been. When I wrote the original post on Friday, I did not recall uploading any videos to this account. However, I subsequently realized that I had uploaded a video of two people dancing - a video that was not publicly accessible. (No, not THAT kind of dancing - I just didn't think the dancers wanted everyone to see their dance moves.) And then I recalled that video had music...which probably triggered some type of nasty slap.

Unfortunately, Google's policies don't even allow me to access my account to see what the problem was - whether it was that video, or perhaps some comment that I made to someone else's video that caused another person offense. Did I call a conservative a baby seal clubber? Did I call a liberal a Communist? No way to know, and no way offered to contact someone, by email or otherwise, to find out my offense. Remember, my only contact with Google explicitly stated:

We are unable to provide specific detail regarding your account suspension or your video's removal.

Well, that WAS my only contact with Google - until now. As the automated Google service continue to chug along, Google has requested feedback on my recent question (i.e. the "why was my YouTube account suspended" question, which garnered the "we are unable to provide specific detail" reply.

Here's the email that I just received from Google:

Dear YouTube User,

Thank you for contacting us about your query 515418251.

We are eager to hear about your YouTube experience. Please take a minute
to answer this short survey about your satisfaction with YouTube support:

After providing me with a link, the email concluded:

We value your thoughts.

The YouTube Support Team

* Find out more about at

P. S. Please don't respond to this email -- we won't receive it!

Well, Google won't receive a response to the email, but Google certainly will receive my survey:

In case the image is too small to be readable, you can rest assured that I marked "Very Dissatisfied" to both categories. I did give YouTube credit for providing feedback that was "easy to understand," "respectful," and "timely," but graded them low on the "specific" (what violation?), "relevant" (no way to correct!), and "complete" categories.

My free-form response was as follows:

My YouTube account was disabled with no notice, no explanation given, no ability to rectify the situation, and no ability to contact anyone to rectify the situation. Am I supposed to be "very satisfied" about Google's lack of customer service?

Now I have no illusions about this having any effect - more than likely, the responses will just be filed away somewhere and compounded into metric reports, and sometime in 2010 a Google report will state something like this:

Our survey data indicates that people whose YouTube accounts are terminated are very dissatisfied with Google's service. Further study is required to ascertain why these people are very dissatisfied, and what proactive steps need to be taken to make our customers very satisfied with our no-notice termination policy.

Now obviously there's another avenue - going around channels and getting someone to help. Jeff Pulver obviously had some pull, was able to find a Google contact, and get his situation fixed. And I could probably use my hundreds of contacts to find someone at Google who can find a human in the YouTube division to give me an actual explanation of what happened.

But that's not the point.

The point is that YouTube has a system that is broken. I've had problems. Pulver has had problems. And I'm sure others have had problems too.

Hence a new series - empo-utoobd. This joins my other series, which at present include empo-tuulwey and empo-tymshft, as well as the series oow09 which is being used by multiple people. I want to look for people who have been YouTubed, why they were YouTubed, and what, if anything, they did about it.

And if there are any updates on my personal situation, I'll post them in this series also. But I'm primarily interested in overall trends here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

LION meets LYIN - LinkedIn a little too much

There are many people who participate in the LinkedIn business social network, and people on the network have different criteria for linking to others. While some people are extremely selective about whom they link to, there are others who will link to thousands upon thousands of people.

It should be noted that linking to someone does not automatically constitute an endorsement of that person. To use an example that I've used before, Chris Brogan has linked to me, but that does NOT mean that he formally endorses me. He knows hardly anything about me, and thus would be ill-equipped to give me a recommendation.

However, I will additionally state that you should be somewhat careful even about linking, and that you should at least employ a minimum of checking before establishing a link.

I view the activity of my LinkedIn connections via a feed that I send to Google Reader. I find that this is an efficient way to keep track of what is going on in my network, and alerts me when one of my connections links to someone that I also know. Well, I saw this notification not too long ago - I've removed the name of my connection:

[DELETED] is now connected to DICK (RICHARD) HERTZ (JANITOR at Unemployed)

Yes, my contact actually established a connection with Dick. And if you'd like to see Dick's public profile, go right here.

JANITOR at Unemployed
Greater New York City Area

JANITOR at Unemployed (Self-employed)

6 connections

Management Consulting

Unemployed (Self-employed)
(Self-Employed; Management Consulting industry)

Currently holds this position

And yes, Dick does have six connections on LinkedIn. They aren't viewable, but I'd be willing to bet that they are all LIONs, and if they're not, they're people such as "Charley Horse" and "Prince Albertinacan."

Now there's no problem linking with such accounts on FriendFeed, but if you link with such a "person" on LinkedIn, then that reflects poorly on YOUR judgement.

Picture source, license

Two ex-chairmen, one chairman. Who has the most power?

Oracle's Larry Ellison gave a talk at the Churchill Club in San Jose a few days ago, which included a revelation:

One of the more important revelations was that Oracle's latest announced purchase, Sun Microsystems, is leaking money at a rate of $100 million per month and that the final regulatory blessings of the European Commission on the $7.4 billion Sun acquisition announced April 20 cannot come soon enough.

But part of the proceedings were lighter - sort of:

Toward the end of Larry Ellison’s freewheeling talk in San Jose on Sept. 21, host Ed Zander got into a spat with a fellow in the back of the room who insisted he wanted to ask Ellison two questions, not the allotted one. By the time the hotel ballroom looked back, they realized the dogged questioner was none other than Sun Microsystems chairman Scott McNealy.

“Do you have any idea what future ex-chairmen can do?” McNealy, dressed in old jeans and a blue T-shirt, asked Ellison, who was on stage being interviewed by Zander, who once served as Sun’s president. (McNealy’s second question was about hockey’s San Jose Sharks).

Now while many of you think of Zander as an ex-Sun employee, I think of his subsequent position, in which he was chairman of my former employer, Motorola. from Motorola, two years after Scott down as CEO of Sun, retaining the Chairman's position.

I don't think that Charles Phillips or Safra Catz are about to try to oust Larry Ellison from the CEO post. And they can't oust Ellison from the Chairman's post at Oracle, because he doesn't hold it - Jeff Henley does. (Oracle's complete Board of Directors is listed here.)

Oracle separated the Chairman and CEO positions back in 2004, before it was cool to do so.

Oracle Corporation's (Nasdaq: ORCL) Board of Directors announced that it is separating the responsibilities of Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. At its meeting today, the Board elected Oracle's Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Henley, Chairman of the Oracle Board. In addition, Safra Catz and Charles Phillips have each been promoted to President reporting to Oracle Chief Executive Officer, Larry Ellison....

"The Oracle Board of Directors believes these changes will enable the company's deep management talent to better serve customers, run the company with excellence and integrity and complement its good corporate governance," said Dr. Michael Boskin, Chairman of the Nomination and Governance Committee and of the Committee on Compensation and Management Development of the Oracle Board of Directors.

Now there are too many variables to compare Ellison, Zander, and McNealy and to figure out why (pending EU approval) Ellison will be the only one of the three with any real power, even though he doesn't have complete control over the firm. What would have happened if Ellison had introduced the RAZR, or Zander had bought every enterprise company imaginable? No one will ever know.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why do companies need a Chief Customer Officer?

Oracle sent out a survey, and upon completion of the survey, I saw this video:

I'm going to ignore the content of the video, or of the survey, and just concentrate on Jeb Dasteel's title - Chief Customer Officer.

This wss the first time that I have encountered such a title. I know I'm not trendy, so perhaps this is a big trend that I've missed. And it turns out that I have missed it, although the trend is relatively recent in business terms. Predictive Consulting Group says the following:

Nearly six years ago when I first began to study the relatively unknown role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO), I found fewer than 20 in the world.

There are now 200+ officially-titled Chief Customer Officers in the world, and hundreds more with similar titles....

While the reasons are varied, CEOs hire a CCO for one of three primary reasons:

1. Address unresolved customer crises, including defecting customers and even lawsuits

2. Create competitive advantage by showing a critical commitment to customers

3. Retain existing customers and protect current revenue

Now one can argue that every person in a company should be dedicated to solving customer problems, but the CCO role allows someone to focus on that role. Would that person have an ombudsman-like role, perhaps? This article from 2000 (more than six years ago, by the way) says yes, but not in a complimentary way:

How the CCO fits into the organization and what this individual should do is obscure to most organizations. So why even think about the CCO? "The CCO is a powerful, descriptive name and a call to action," says Diorio. "It highlights a critical underlying business issue--customer-centricity--that, like Ford's quality imperative and other business issues in the past, will take several years to evolve." Meanwhile, the CCO will likely be a figurehead role. "IMT strategies sees the CCO as an ombudsman function with lots of symbolic value but as yet no real operational teeth."

Well, that was 2000, and now we're in 2009. The CCO job has evolved to the point where they are giving awards for the best CCO, and one of these was snagged by...Oracle's Jeb Dasteel.

Customer loyalty is the Holy Grail for many businesses, yet in most organizations, nobody is accountable for loyalty improvement in the executive suite.

“The key to business success, particularly in a down economy, is anticipating customer needs and continuously deepening customer relationships,” according to Jeb Dasteel, Chief Customer Officer (CCO) of Oracle, who was named the 2009 Chief Customer Officer of the Year last month at the first ever Chief Customer Officer Summit.

And remember how I said that perhaps everyone should champion the needs of the customer? Well, award-giver Curtis N. Bingham identified one company - not Oracle - that actually practices this:

“Unless you’re Disney where the customer is injected into the cultural DNA, you need someone to champion the customer cause. Otherwise, opportunities are squandered, customers leave, and innovation is squelched.”

Disney continues to emphasize this, with programs such as the Disney Institute:

Not only did Walt Disney re-define the world of entertainment, his legacy is found in a worldwide scope of motion pictures, Theme Parks, stage shows, books, magazines, television, merchandise, music, apparel, radio, resorts, a cruise line and more.

Of course, none of this would have been possible had he not also re-written the rules of business.

Walt Disney was, and will always remain, that rare breed: an artistic genius who, with the unflagging and essential support of his brother, Roy, created an effective organizational model and efficient work environment where employees were recognized for their achievements, encouraged to work as a team and, by striving for excellence, continually broke the confines of the status quo to surpass the expectations of the world....

Disney Institute remains the only professional development company where you will literally step into a "living laboratory" at Disney Theme Parks and Resorts for guided behind-the-scenes field experiences. Disney’s brand of business excellence is also being taught at locations across the U.S. and, to date, in more than 40 countries around the world.

We have inspired leaders to change not only their business practices, but also to examine their business issues in an entirely new light. Like them, you will find your organization has more in common with Disney than you ever imagined.


This raises the question - why do so few companies inject the customer into the cultural DNA? CNN identified six companies where customers come first, but they're all local companies. Can a company grow to the size of Disney and continue to claim a "customer first" strategy...and have people believe them?

Perhaps those companies may be found at the NACCM 7th annual Customers 1st Conference, which will take place in November of this year.

By the way, I would have subscribed to the OracleVideo account on YouTube, but I received the message "Your account has been permanently disabled." I'm not the only one; this happened to Jeff Pulver and (according to Bing) has happened to many other people. This is what they told me:

Hi empoprises,

Thanks for your email. Your "empoprises" account has been found to have
violated our Community Guidelines. Your account has now been terminated.
Please be aware that you are prohibited from accessing, possessing or
creating any other YouTube accounts.

YouTube staff review flagged videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week to
determine whether they violate our Community Guidelines. When a video or
account is brought to our attention we investigate and take action if

We are unable to provide specific detail regarding your account suspension
or your video's removal. For more information on our what we consider
inappropriate content or conduct while using YouTube, please visit our
Community Guidelines and Tips at and our Help Center article


The YouTube Team

Considering that I've only uploaded one video to YouTube in my entire life, and not with this account, I have a question - perhaps Google needs a CCO?

Picture source, license

Universities and the recession - not all the news is bad

Just about everybody is getting hurt by the recession. About a year ago, I heard someone from a particular university assuring the public that the university's endowment was huge, and able to survive the recession. A year later...

Steep investment losses have caused painful cutbacks at some of the nation’s best-known universities over the most recent fiscal year and have prompted questions about whether their endowments are taking too much risk.

The New York Times article mentioned one leading university:

Yale disclosed the details of its year, reporting an investment loss of 24.6 percent, compared with an average drop of 17.2 percent for large funds, according to the Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service.

And those of us who live in California realize that publicly-funded schools aren't doing so well either.

Yet there are opportunities for universities, as a separate New York Times article notes:

As the recession prompts many adults, some jobless, to return to school, including community colleges and technical institutes, commercial real estate professionals said schools were expanding into former offices as well as theaters.

Not only are the institutes getting an upsurge in students, but it's easier for them to acquire the new real estate that they need:

“Because schools of higher education do have a limit on the rent they can pay, they are intrigued now by the rents dropping by 20 or 30 percent,” Mr. Lipinski said. “So the combination of increased demand, being opportunistic and rents being reduced has made them more of a player right now in the office market than they have been in the past.”

Which only goes to show you that the recession can be an opportunity, not a catastrophe, for some people.

(Picture source, license)

(empo-tuulwey) Tools lie

Last Sunday, the sermon at my church touched upon James 1:23-24, and in addition to reflecting on the message in the sermon, I also began thinking about mirrors in a secular sense. And in essence, I've decided that mirrors lie - and other tools that we use have the capability of lying also.

Let's start with mirrors. I look in a mirror every day, so therefore I know exactly what I look like. And I know from looking in the mirror that when someone looks at me, the part in my hair is on the left side.

So why is this picture incorrect?

It turns out that the tool that I use to look at myself, namely the mirror, gives me a false view of what I look like, since it effectively executes a left-right reversal of my true image.

Other tools that we use give a false impression of us, or at least an incomplete impression. Take Twitter, for example. If you were to conclude that the @empoprises Twitter account were the real me, then you'd think that I always spoke in short bursts. And that I don't have an accent. And in some cases (not mine), you may think that you were tweeting to a sexy 20-year old French female when you were really tweeting to a 58-year old Ukranian man.

But even when you rule out outright fraud, tools have a way of distorting things. There have been tons of electrons devoted to the hazards of communicating via electronic mail vs. communicating in person. Here's an example: allows confrontation from a distance. Folks who wouldn't even dream of saying certain things to your face don't have a problem with emailing you the exact same comments. This certainly is far less productive than having meaningful, face to face discussions to resolve any issues at hand.

Note that email potentially changes the person. Perhaps someone will comment on this post using all caps, but if they met me in person they'd be much quieter.

And the medium itself inflicts communication barriers:

Sarcasm rarely works in emails. It takes an ability to perceive nonverbal signals so probably is understood only by those who know you very well. Sarcasm can be cutting and condescending; some people will understand your message as just that.

I tried to think of a sarcastic remark to add here, but...well, let's just leave it at that.

The "I am not angry" picture above was uploaded to Flickr by Dave Winer. When he posted the picture, he offered the following comment:

People read blog posts and email messages and superimpose their own emotions on what they're reading because intonation is impossible in written work. And then they hold the author responsible for their emotions! Usually it's anger that they "project" in this way. When that happens to you, send them a pointer to this picture. It might make them laugh and take some of the heaviness out of the situation. A good laugh is always on-topic, imho, because nothing really is that serious. It's not as if anyone gets out of this alive. :-)

And if you really want to check a lack of emotion, listen to the Odiogo audio version of this post (which should be available for a few weeks after this is posted). When Odiogo "reads" the post, it cannot find sufficient clues to indicate emotion. So phrases such as happy happy joy joy have the same intonation as phrases such as this is the most terrible thing that has ever happened to our family. Happy happy joy joy I cannot believe this terrible thing happened it doesn't really make any difference to Odiogo, does it?

It's important to remember that a tweet, or a blog post, or a podcast does not encapsulate the totality of the person who created them. Don't make the mistake of thinking otherwise.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

(empo-tuulwey) The difference between strategy and tactics

I have a professional interest in biometrics, so I definitely wanted to check out the RISE website ( when I first heard about it. "RISE" stands for "Rising Pan‐European and International Awareness of Biometrics and Security Ethics," and according to the website, RISE has three strategic objectives:

O1 Preparing and convening a third international conference in China
O2 Preparing and convening a European multi‐stakeholder conference
O3 Preparing and convening a fourth international conference in Europe.

I kid you not - its STRATEGIC objective is to hold conferences. But that makes sense, when you look at the "three main ideas" for RISE:

• Dialogue must be global
• Policy must be ethically informed
• Conversation must be ongoing

In essence, the overreaching goal of RISE is to talk a lot.

Now perhaps that truly IS RISE's overreaching goal, but somehow I would think that the purpose of RISE would have something to do with...oh, say, BIOMETRICS. Well, maybe they concentrate on talking because they're talking about speaker recognition. (That's a biometric joke, people. I slay myself.)

If you dig a little deeper, you'll find that they want to talk about

...ethical, social and privacy implications of biometrics and security technology.

Certainly a laudable effort, and something that needs to be addressed, but why did I have to dig so deep to find out what RISE was about?

Now I could make fun of Europeans and government bureaucracies and how misguided they become - "Boy, those stupid Brussels bureaucrats don't care what they talk about, as long as the proper stakeholders are at the table!" But let's be honest - this doesn't just happen in Europe, but it also happens in the United States. It doesn't just happen in government, but it also happens in the private sector. It doesn't just happen to large organizations, but can happen to small companies or do individuals.

So you and I need to make sure that we don't end up like anonymous Brussels bureaucrats. Let's not confuse strategy and tactics.

(empo-tuulwey) Why Fred Wilson is wiser than I am

In case you've missed it, I've spent months trying to hammer the phrase "a tool is not a way of life" down everyone's throat...with about as much success as my last attempt to hammer a phrase into the minds of the populace, "Rita Moreno of Arte."

But people are more apt to listen to Fred Wilson than they are to listen to me. And when Fred says events often overtake companies, people listen.

I think less than 20% of the companies we back end up doing what they started out planning on doing. They build something, get it into the market, and then things happen. Often it turns out the market wants something a bit different than they are offering. Or that the users adopt one part of the product and don't use another part very much at all. Or developers start building things on top of the API that opens their eyes to a much bigger opportunity. Or it could simply be that the market loves what they built and they have to spend all their time on scaling and infrastructure and all the things they planned on building go to the back burner.

All you have to do is look at one of Fred's investments, Twitter. They've certainly had to adjust their vision a time or two to respond to user wishes.

(empo-tymshft) #oow09 #hashtag emergence and standardization FTL

It's deja vu all over again.

I was using Blogger to blog about Oracle OpenWorld one year, and I decided to use Blogger's label facility to tag my relevant blog posts. Having survived y2k, I still had the four-digit year standard instilled in me, and therefore created my mrontemp blog posts with the label openworld2007. See my September 16, 2007 post State a Range and Hope You Hit the Middle for an example of this.

However, after I had already labeled a number of posts with that label, I found out that the community was using a different label. So, despite my inner revulsion at two-digit years, I switched over and began labeling my mrontemp stuff with openworld07, subsequently adding the label to the previously-tagged "openworld2007" stuff and retiring the openworld07 label.

So then we got to 2008. My mrontemp blog was still going strong at the time, so I used the openworld08 label in that blog. And I used the openworld08 label in my then-new Empoprise-MU music blog (and, for the record, I still hate Psychedelic Furs). And I used openworld08 in my Empoprise-NTN NTN Buzztime trivia blog (I had to have my fix at the Beale St. Bar and Grill). And I even managed to sneak the openworld08 label into my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog a couple of times.

Well, now it's 2009, and I'm ready. This Empoprise-BI business blog didn't exist until this year, but I've already tagged several posts in this blog with the openworld09 label. And earlier this morning, I even tagged this tweet with the #openworld09 hashtag.

@_Enigma_Inc heard about your Twitter account via email. Not an aircraft expert, but I will be at #openworld09

So, just out of curiosity, I performed a Twitter search for #openworld09 and discovered (at the time) that my tweet to @_Enigma_Inc was the only tweet using the hashtag.

That's odd, I thought. I knew that Twitter search was pretty poor, but it couldn't be THAT poor.

This led me to check Justin Kestelyn's @oracletechnet Twitter account to see what hashtag he was using, and he was using #oow09. I asked him about this, and he confirmed that #oow09 is the hashtag in use this year. I subsequently noticed that the #oow09 hashtag is prominently featured on "The OTN Guide to Oracle OpenWorld 2009." In case you're reading this in 2010 and the page has disappeared, here's what it says as of now:

Official hashtag: #oow09

Pretty clear, except that I never got around to the RTFM stage, and have been blindly #openworld09-ing away since September.

This is easy enough to fix on the blog; I'll just do what I did in 2007 and retroactively apply the "oow09" label to all posts that have the "openworld09" label, and (after posting this) cease use of openworld09.

But in some cases, the label/hashtag will stick. For example, my use of the #openworld09 hashtag in May crept into an account of a Product Management View online seminar.

So was I the only one caught off guard by the #oow09 hashtag? Apparently not. Gwen Shapira used it in a September blog post. Fuad Arshad apparently tweeted it in August. Oh...and it appears on an Oracle wiki page.

In essence, this is probably the biggest problem with the decentralized creation of hashtags - it's decentralized. Certainly it's a good thing to let the community decide on the most appropriate hashtag to use, but what happens to the content that uses an expired hashtag - content that cannot be edited? For what I can edit my blog posts to apply the #oow09 label, I can't edit my tweets.

Amy Gahran proposed a solution to this issue:

It’s essential to coordinate, promote, and use hashtags at least a few hours before an event starts. That way, your Twitter followers will know that the event is happening, and how to follow it. They’ll also know how to spread the word of the upcoming coverage.

Ideally, use the hashtag in promotional tweets a couple of times before the event — and include in those tweets a link to the event’s info page, if any, so people know what you’re talking about.

In my view, that is not enough, especially for large events attended by tens of thousands of people. In fact, I began using the openworld09 label on Friday, October 3, 2008. In my blog post which covered the brainstorming session that occurred at Oracle OpenWorld 2008, here's part of what I said:

OK, I have now officially posted my first Oracle OpenWorld 2009 post - and the conference won't start until...well, until late 2009. (October 11-15, according to the OpenWorld 2008 site.)

Not that I was the first one to start asking about Oracle OpenWorld 2009. Somewhere around Tuesday or Wednesday during Oracle OpenWorld 2008, Marius Ciortea and others began talking about holding a brainstorming session during the Unconference. This was scheduled for Thursday morning - as I noted, I attended the session....

And I also said this:

So I've launched an "idea" thread on Oracle Mix to capture additional suggestions for Oracle OpenWorld 2009....Presumably other people have started, or will be starting, similar efforts. (In fact, if you want to start similar things in Mix, just be sure to use the "openworld09" tag.)

Oops. You know what they say about people that ASSUME...

So, what is the best way to let over 40,000 people know what the official hashtag for an event is? And how soon should this information be disseminated?

(Note to self: if I have a pbworks login, I should add this post to this wiki.)

(empo-tuulwey) Misuse, from Apollo to Twitter

An important corollary to my slogan "a tool is not a way of life" is the thought that there may be instances in which it is good to use a tool for something other than its intended purpose.

Sometimes, as Jon Ippolito notes in his essay "The Art of Misuse," you are compelled to misuse a tool.

Of course, technologists sometimes misuse their tools for a practical purpose. NASA engineers jury-rigged a filter out of spare parts and duct tape to save the astronauts of Apollo 13 from poisonous gases venting inside the crippled capsule.

The bulk of Ippolito's piece, however, concerns how artists misuse tools, and Ippolito notes that some artistic actions can be bad, while some can expand the mind.

Which brings us to Jack Dorsey, one of the principals of Twitter. There has been much discussion over things that Twitter initially didn't support, but that customers demanded them to support. In this Wall Street Journal interview, Dorsey admits that the customers were right.

Many of Twitter’s features and terminology arose from its users, he added. The “@” symbol, for example, which indicates a reply to another Twitter user, initially met with resistance from the company. He eventually spent two hours updating the service to automatically link usernames to their accounts when they appeared next to an @ symbol.

The word “tweet” was another user-coined term, one that Twitter staffers first cringed at when it came up during media interviews, Mr. Dorsey said. Now it’s part of the service’s interface, and Twitter is working on incorporating retweets, another unexpected practice, into its functionality. “We didn’t have all the ideas. We didn’t have the direction, specifically. A lot of what you see that is successful on Twitter today is from the users,” he said.

Just as well that Twitter listened. If it hadn't, then it might have ended up abandoned, stranded out in the middle of nowhere, with no Gene Kranz to bring it back.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Quote or insight? I'll bite

I was recently notified that because I shared my post about Hope is in the Cards with the "Quotes and Insights" blog on Bloggersbase, I have the privilege of sharing posts in that blog for a week.

So I might as well make the most of it, even though I normally don't venture down the Quotes and Insights path. Steven Hodson shared this quote from Chris Brogan, which prompted me to check my own Twitter feed for insightful quotes. And here's what I found:

(@Mel_White_) "Historian: an unsuccessful novelist. H. L. Mencken #Quotes"

(@AhhPhotography) "Everyone, without exception, is searching for happiness. Blaise Pascal"

But quotes from others got boring, so I dove in a little deeper. Or maybe a lot deeper.

(@pourmecoffee) "Joe Lieberman will french kiss you on a rooftop with Dave Matthews mixtape playing for your vote. Keep the line moving."

I don't know what's worse - the visual, or the "audi-al."

OK, so maybe Twitter isn't always all that insightful - heck, nothing is. (Check my blog if you don't believe me.) But perhaps if we turn to a tweeter who is known for sharing insight to millions, we'll find a jewel. So let's turn to @oprah - and, as it did turn out, she did have something to say on September 11:

Woke up. got dressed & thought about every one of the 2970 who did the same 8 yrs ago. Let's have a tweet of silence to remember them all

I'll close with that.

A nickel and dime is worth a nickel and dime - airline ancillary revenues

In some way, shape or form, every one of my blogs touches upon the topic of someone trying to get money from someone else. For example, in my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog, I often talk about how Ontario International Airport is trying to get more money from the airlines. At the same time, of course, the airlines themselves are trying to get more money out of their passengers - in June, for example, I only checked a single bag on a cross-country trip...and had to pay for it.

Now anyone who's had any exposure to economics or business knows that there are trade-offs in setting prices. If Ontario Airport or an airline sets their prices too low, then they may not get as much revenue as they could. However, if they set their prices too hight, then they may drive their customers to find alternatives - airlines landing at Burbank instead of Ontario, companies flying fewer people to distant meetings.

Yet airlines still charge the extra fees anyway, as BusinessWeek notes:

Increasingly, the airlines' goal these days is to have the fare be just one piece of the travel experience and to segment every other aspect, from drinks to baggage, HBO to legroom. Whether it's a fleece blanket and travel-pillow set (US Airways) or extra frequent-flier miles (United), the airline cabin has become a virtual bazaar. And nearly every carrier, low-cost or legacy, is getting in on the action.

BusinessWeek notes that part of this is offering new services that airlines previously didn't offer - tours once you get to your destination, for example. But, of course, the airlines are also charging for other things, such as the privilege to eat airline food, or the privilege to take a bag.

They have to.

A leader in the unbundling movement, Dublin-based Ryanair Holdings (RYAAY), reported that ancillary revenues made up nearly 20% of its total revenues in 2008 and outpaced overall revenue growth by a wide margin—35%, vs. 21%. At Allegiant, one of the few profitable U.S. airlines, nearly 23% of total 2008 revenue came from ancillary sources. Worldwide, ancillary revenue totaled $10.3 billion for airlines in 2008, a 345% jump since 2006, according to a study by IdeaWorks, a Wisconsin market research firm. "If it weren't for ancillary revenue, we probably would have seen at least one of the major airlines fall, given the recession," IdeaWorks President Jay Sorensen says.

And Sorenson speculates that this ancillary revenue stream won't disappear once the recession ends. He's not the only one who thinks that:

Even when good times return for airlines, many analysts say, free checked luggage will remain as distant a memory as the smoking section at the back of the airplane—charging for it is just too profitable. Yet with the fees permanent, consumers could be forgiven for wondering where the new charges might end: Is the U.S. market destined to be dominated by ultra-spartan flights, such as those pioneered in Europe by Ryanair, whose CEO has asked Boeing (BA) to explore installing credit-card-operated toilets?

But perhaps paying to pee won't be implemented here. Simpler moves have backfired, and backfired badly.

USAirways' (LCC) failed attempt to charge for soft drinks and water, which the company abandoned in April, resulted in a loss of market share...and obscured the fact that the airline had dramatically improved its operational reliability. The industry declined to follow up on that effort, and nonalcoholic drinks have remained largely free...

So what WILL happen in the future? It depends upon the airlines' two markets - business, and leisure. Now business travel is controlled by the CFO, and the CFO, responding to shareholder or private investor pressure, is going to insist that any travel be done on the cheap. ("Excessive restroom visits on the airplane will not be eligible for compensation.") Of course, the CFO is only going to have control up to a certain point - eventually, some employees may respond by saying, "You can fire me if you want, but I'm NOT making that trip to New York! My back STILL hurts from being stuffed in the luggage compartment on the last trip!"

(Incidentally, if my employer is reading this, let me assure you that I love our travel policy and our generous per diem allowance. Really.)

The more interesting battle will be in the leisure market. As I've noted elsewhere, a lot of businesses are dependent upon air travel. And the resort hotels in Los Cabos and elsewhere may run into problems if vacation travelers decide that they'd rather NOT have to board Sardine Airlines to get to a resort destination.

Perhaps then you're going to see the pendulum swing again, as it always does, and all of these airlines that are cutting corners at every opportunity are going to find competition from a new player in the airline industry - not one who targets the rich, but one who wants to snag the business of the middle class leisure traveler, and perhaps the middle class business traveler. Imagine the lines that would form if an airline used this advertising slogan - and could back it up:

Fly Human Airlines to the Caribbean
on our all-inclusive, luxurious aircraft!
Our planes are so nice that when you get to your destination,
you'll want to stay on the aircraft!

Trust me - within five years, some airline will differentiate itself by entering this market, and the Ryans and Americans and Uniteds are going to lose market share because of it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

We're fixing the banks! But our battles will go on. Cue the music.

I realize that there are structural difficulties in our society. For example, our love of name recognition all but assures that most incumbent politicians are re-elected over and over and over again. Similarly, anything that a company CEO wants to have done is usually done, and no dissident shareholders can stop a CEO.

Compensation is a big issue, and one that I've looked at before (in connection with the government's attempts to "fix" AIG). But now it's time to look at it again, because the Federal Government will fix the recession by constraining the top bankers.

The Federal Reserve and the Treasury are preparing broad new rules that would force banks to rein in practices that made multimillionaires out of many financial executives during the housing bubble, officials said....

Fed officials would give banks wide leeway in how they structure their rewards. They would not prohibit million-dollar pay packages or address issues of fairness. Rather, the rules are intended to restrict pay plans that encourage reckless behavior by rewarding only short-term gains.

But, for what it's worth, it could be worse:

The effort is also meant to be a credible alternative to the call by some European leaders for specific limits on bonuses to financial executives, an idea opposed by the Obama administration. Officials from Europe and the Treasury are negotiating over compensation and other financial industry regulations in advance of a summit meeting next week in Pittsburgh of leaders from the Group of 20 industrialized and large emerging countries.

The Obama administration opposes strict caps on pay, arguing that the size of the bonuses are not as important as the risk to the financial health of the bank that bonuses linked to performance can create.

But meanwhile, there are also moves in the United States to change the regulatory landscape. Christopher Dodd, Barney Frank, and Barack Obama, however, haven't agreed on the best course of action:

Lawmakers and aides say the bill Mr. Dodd is preparing to make public in the coming weeks would be more ambitious and politically risky than the plan offered by the White House, which considered but then decided against combining the four banking agencies — the Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Comptroller of the Currency — into one superagency.

The White House backed away from that plan to avoid a phalanx of industry opposition that might slow Congress.

In the House, Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a Democrat and the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, has been working on legislation that is closer to the Obama plan on consolidation of the agencies.

Mr. Dodd and others say that the market crisis last year was caused in part by banks that were able to choose which agency would regulate them, and by bank agencies that reduced regulations to encourage more banks to choose them.

That problem would be eliminated if there were only one bank agency.

Not necessarily.

The theory behind these consolidation moves is that if we take a bunch of little agencies and combine them into one big agency, that one big agency will move with a single purpose and solve problems.

Bureaucracies don't work that way. George W. Bush's Department of Homeland Security doesn't speak with one voice; all the subagencies and sub-bureaus and sub-departments still fight with each other. The same goes for Jimmy Carter's Department of Education, and every other consolidation that's ever happened.

Let's face it; if you put two offices under the same manager, you're still going to have two offices. And no matter how many videoconferences and Twitter accounts and the like you have, the New York people are still going to think of the Los Angeles people as "them," and vice versa.

There's a famous phrase, "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." According to Andrew, this phrase originated with Rogers Morton, and referred to the fact that Ronald Reagan had won a string of primaries against Morton's boss, President Gerald Ford. Ford eventually won the nomination, but it can be argued that Reagan lost it rather than Ford winning it; even in the 1970s, when political purity took a back seat to survival, a Reagan-Schweiker ticket still troubled many.

So I have no illusions that a superagency will solve things. In fact, since regulatory agencies are often captured by those who are being regulated by the agency, there's a good chance that a banking regulation superagency will do the bankers' bidding anyway.

But I guess it looks really important.

How Bloggersbase has influenced my blogging, and why

I don't think that it will shock you to discover that this blog does not receive as much traffic, as, say, Robert Scoble's blog. Therefore, the feedback that I receive on individual posts is rather limited. Many posts receive no feedback at all, and the feedback that I do receive (primarily via Disqus comments, FriendFeed comments, and the like) tends to be qualitative, rather than quantitative.

But one of Bloggersbase's features is that you can get quantitative feedback on every post that you submit - provided, of course, that someone gives feedback. Well, perhaps I'm lucky, or perhaps I'm in the right Bloggersbase circle of friends, but many of my posts HAVE received feedback. For example, as of early Sunday evening, here are the ratings for my most recent posts on Bloggersbase:

Now perhaps these are small data points, but Bloggersbase is giving me more data points than I am getting from my own blog. Not that I'm going to use the ratings to completely guide me - if I want to write about Serbian pottery sellers, I'm going to do so.

The Serbian pottery sellers post that I previously wrote, however, doesn't have any ratings within Bloggersbase. That's because I never submitted it. In fact, as time has gone on, I find that I have taken one of three actions with the Empoprise-BI feed that is being fed into Bloggersbase. (At present, I'm not feeding posts from my other blogs into Bloggersbase.) Every post from this blog is reviewed by me when it hits Bloggersbase, and I can take one of three actions:

  • Don't submit it to Bloggersbase at all. In my mind, the Serbian pottery sellers post, and some of my other posts, don't necessarily belong in Bloggersbase. So I simply cancel the submission.

  • Submit it to Bloggersbase, but only to my personal blog. I don't want to overwhelm the main Bloggersbase blogs with my writings, so I've found that I've become somewhat selective.

  • Submit it to one of the official Bloggersbase blogs (usually the Business & Finance blog, although I did make one submission to Quotes and Insights). When I'm in the "Goldmine" area, I can only submit one post (a "nugget") per week, so I have to be very selective. When I'm promoted above the Goldmine, I can submit as many posts as I want, but I try to only submit my posts to the main Bloggersbase blogs.
So, what will I do with this post when Bloggersbase becomes aware of it? It's clearly not a business post as Bloggersbase defines the term, but perhaps it will fit within the Blogging category as a nugget.

So we've seen that Bloggersbase provides you with a way to get feedback on your writing. But if you're not on Bloggersbase, what are the best feedback methods that you can use?