Monday, December 31, 2012

Bad ad placement

Found these ads in the middle of this security article.

With those brief descriptions, next to that text, I wonder how many people clicked on the links.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Empoprise-BI in April 2012 - Yeah

For those who are just joining the fun, I'm hopping on the 2012 bandwagon and looking at my previous posts in the Empoprise-BI business blog, taking one post from each month, and highlighting it. I've already looked at posts from January 2012, February 2012, and March 2012, so now it's time to look at April.

My last post ended up being rather long. This post will be shorter.

For April, I chose to look back at the post Why a talking lamb is more impressive than a high Klout score.

I could quote extensively from the post, but I'm not going to do that.

I could analyze the post, but I'm not going to do that.

I'm just going to share this.

Empoprise-BI in March 2012 - I was right about Mark Walter...or was I?

Yes, I'm looking at some posts I wrote in the past year. I've already looked at January and February, so now it's time for March.

For a change, rather than looking at a post that suddenly caught my fancy, I'm going to look at a post that caught the fancy of a lot of other people.

You see, while people were concentrating on certain members of the Los Angeles Dodger's new ownership team, I was heading right to the top. In the end, the person who runs a business is the person with the money, and in the Dodgers' ownership group, the money was held by Mark Walter.

So, back in March, I asked the question Who is prospective Dodgers controlling partner Mark R. Walter? ("Prospective" because when I wrote the post, the ownership change was still going through the approval process.)

There wasn't a lot of information available about Walter at the time, so I ended up looking at the Guggenheim website. One quote caught my eye:

“We put our clients and our relationships first, ahead of the firm’s interests.”

~CEO Mark Walter

After the penny-pinching that became evident in the latter years of the Frank McCourt era, I observed:

Good news for a baseball fan.

But now that several months have elapsed since the new regime took over, we can ask ourselves whether the team is headed in the right direction.

Walter and the Dodgers certainly spent money in 2012 - most notably when the team acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and an injured Carl Crawford. In late August, it looked like Gonzalez and Beckett could help propel the Dodgers to the postseason.

They didn't.

The Dodgers' 86-76 record wasn't enough to get them into postseason play, although it was slightly better than the 82-79 record from 2011, McCourt's last year. And it was better than the 80-82 record from 2010.

But what can we expect in 2013? I think we can expect that Mark Walter and the Dodgers will spend money. But will that be enough to bring a win to Chavez Ravine?

Empoprise-BI in February 2012 - Only I can mention Mel Brooks and Syrian security in the same post

OK, let's move on with my end of year retrospective. I already covered January 2012, so let's move on to February.

To select a post to highlight for February, I consulted analytics, SEO optimization techniques, and industry trends, and then selected the post with the weirdest title.

That post had the title Mel Brooks provides IT security for Syrian officials. When I read that title, I asked myself, "What was I thinking?"

Well, it turns out that Anonymous hacked a number of online accounts of Syrian officials.

And some of them used the password "12345."

If you don't get the reference, read the post.

Empoprise-BI in January 2012 - Remember SOPA?

I really should have done this earlier.

You know, it's really cool to do all sorts of retrospective stuff as a blogger, and if you do it just right, you can get a bunch of hits on your back catalog of posts.

So I'm going to jump on the bandwagon now and pick out posts that I wrote earlier in the year with the hopes that millions of people will go back to those posts and I'll be ranked as one of the top bloggers in this galaxy.

But I probably waited too long to do this. I'm not even sure if I'll be able to get to March.

Well, let's start with January.

But first I have to throw down some ancient history on you.

Remember SOPA?

Remember how your life was going to change because of SOPA?

And remember how when THE PEOPLE brought SOPA down to defeat, this meant that Hollywood would play nice with everyone and things would be wonderful?

OK, so maybe you don't remember it ending like that. Perhaps you don't remember SOPA. But I, along with every other good blogger, was writing about it in January 2012, primarily writing derogatory notes about ineffective moves. (Remember how GoDaddy went bankrupt? You don't?)

But I ran across some things that suggested something better, and talked about them in my post Reddit and Y Combinator - this may be an effective move.

Reddit, for example, was looking at boycotting movies from the major studios. While this really didn't pan out, it at least had some potential because of the knowledge that Reddit users have about how websites work.

Imagine that SuperDuperStudio posts a YouTube trailer for its forthcoming blockbuster movie, Explosions and Girls in Bikinis (in 3-D)!!!! You see, when that trailer gets posted on YouTube, people are allowed to vote on it, and to offer comments.

Once the Reddit people get done with that, Rebecca Black will look like a Grammy Award candidate. When these studios get millions of negative votes and "U SUK" comments on all of their social media outlets, entire marketing campaigns will be adversely affected.

It didn't work out that way...but it could have.

In another potential effort - and frankly I don't know how this one turned out - Y Combinator was looking at funding some alternatives to the major studios. Of course, the Y Combinator folks would have insisted that the funded startups adhere to certain practices.

PITCHMAN: And then when the service goes out of beta, we'll have cool kids drooling over our insanely great service and we'll get bought out by a major studio!

YC: And will you have better ideas than Hollywood?

PITCHMAN: Oh yes! You know how Hollywood uses 3-D a lot? Well, we'll use 4-D. That's 33% better than what the major studios do!

YC: Hmm...speaking of major studios, could you share your First Amendment policy with us?

PITCHMAN: My what?

YC: Your pledge that your company will behave in an ethical manner and honor the free speech rights of all Americans, and the inherent free speech rights possessed by every human being in the entire world.

PITCHMAN: Uh...we'll have to get back to you on that.

YC: And WE'LL have to get back to YOU regarding your request for funding. Next?

I don't know if this was my best post from January, but I ran across it and like it so I'm writing about it again. Go here for the rest.

Well, one month down, eleven to go.

Today would have been Richard Crandall's birthday

This post could just as easily have gone into my Empoprise-MU music blog, but for reasons that will become obvious it is here in the Empoprise-BI business blog.

One recent post that WAS placed in the Empoprise-MU music blog was a post entitled Diplomat Drummer. In the course of that post, I wrote:

A month or two later I met my dorm dad, Darrell Jenks, who frankly looked like a forest ranger, with a huge beard. And he played the drums - in fact, a Reed College band, Daryl Jenks, was named after him (although, unlike John McVie who had a band named after him, Darrell Jenks never officially joined Daryl Jenks).

One person who did join Daryl Jenks was a fellow Reed student named Chris Ruf, who recently wrote the following in a comment to this item:

I first met Richard when he arrived at Reed my junior year
and I took his electronics design course. I can still remember my oral final
exam, which he conducted when he ran into me scrounging in Commons at the end of the semester. He had me design a particular amplifier using an op amp circuit, and explain why it worked from first principles. We started playing together in a band that year, too (first Daryl Jenks, then White Noise, and finally The Chameleons). He offered to teach an independent lab course for me, and we designed and built a series of audio signal processing boxes, a synthesizer, a mixer, and power amps for the band. Our band played downtown sometimes, at The Long Goodbye and PSU frat parties, but most often in the S.U. at Reed. I can’t think of any better way to learn and understand electronics.

The "Richard" to whom Chris referred was Richard Crandall, who was a professor at Reed. I remember the Chameleons, especially their song "Little Red Rooster" (which included scientifically valid recordings of a tree frog). I was unable to find this song online, but I did find two other Chameleons songs here.

But Crandall had a much greater impact on my life. Although I never officially had him as a professor - my Physics professors were Nick Wheeler and David Griffiths - I did run across his work during one series of Physics labs, in which we learned Pascal programming on a Digital PDP/11-70 computer running the Unix operating system. Those who know me know that my exposure to Unix had a dramatic effect on my future career post-Reed.

I've referred to Crandall a couple of times in this blog - once in a joke post that wondered what would have happened if Xerox had been more forceful in protecting its technology (see footnotes 4 and 6), and another post that briefly noted that Crandall was mentioned in Steve Jobs' autobiography.

Oh yes. Most people who know about Crandall heard about him via his work with Apple and NeXT. Or perhaps they know about his work with really large prime numbers.

But whether you knew him as the guy who wrote your physics lab or the guy who was at your wedding, there is sad news. The piece that prompted Chris Ruf's comment was Crandall's obituary, written a few days ago on December 20.

The Reed community was stunned today to learn that physicist, mathematician, computer scientist, and inventor Richard E. Crandall ’69 [physics 1978–] died this morning at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital.

The cause was not immediately clear, but Professor Crandall was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

I didn't hear the news until December 29 - ironically enough, Crandall's birthday (at least according to Wikipedia).

It's been a rough year for brilliant Reedies who dabbled in music. First we lost the Diplomat Drummer, and now we've lost the Scientist Albatross Player.

Friday, December 28, 2012

When former luxuries become necessities (editing my #APMP profile)

Perhaps this post is better suited for my tymshft blog, but it's an interesting business issue that deserves some attention.

I was recently updating my profile at the website of a certain professional organization. I will not reveal the name of the organization, but its initials are APMP. After I completed my updates, I saved my changes and was informed of an error.

The error? The mobile phone number fields (area code, number) were blank.

Yes, for this particular professional organization, entry of a mobile phone number was REQUIRED.

This requirement is not exclusive to business. A couple of years ago I was talking with a college student. The student had an 11:00 class one day, and arrived at class to find no one there. This mystified the student, since a morning check of email had not included any announcement of a class change. It turned out that the professor had TEXTED the class to inform the students of the change.

While people in the tech industry sometimes make unrealistic assumptions about the population as a whole - something I'll address later in this post - it turns out that the tech perception that "everyone has a cell phone" isn't far from the truth, at least in the United States. In fact, a recent survey indicates that 90.6 percent of households have access to wireless service, with only 9.4 percent of households being landline-only. Compare this to the 1970s, when 90 percent of households had landline service, and only 10 percent didn't. (Our country has never had 100% phone service, and it probably never will.)

So now it's safe for companies, professional associations, universities, and most other organizations to assume that their employees, members, and clients have cell phones.

The next barrier - when will 90% of the population have SMARTPHONES? For that to happen, data prices will need to drop dramatically. While Milja Gillespie may be surprised to run across someone without a smartphone, there is a real world in which people use their mobile phones to...make voice telephone calls. And, as Milja's co-worker demonstrated, it's entirely possible to share baby pictures with a non-smartphone. In fact - sit down for this - it's entirely possible to share baby pictures without using any electronic display device at all.

Is your chocolate really chocolate?

I was looking at some of my Christmas candy, and I noticed that the label said that it was "made with 100% real chocolate."

I didn't even know that artificial chocolate existed. I knew that there was an artificial banana flavor, but I didn't know that there was an artificial chocolate flavor.

As usual, I am not trendy. Joy R. ran into artificial chocolate back in 2009:

I decided to grab some chocolate chip cookie dough while I was at the store today. I grabbed a roll of it, and noticed the label looked a bit different. That's when I saw it... a little red blurb that proudly proclaimed "Made with Real Cocoa!". What the?... I looked closer at the label, and saw that instead of containing "chocolate chips", the cookie dough now contains "chocolate-flavored" chips. I flipped the package over, and the ingredient statement confirmed it: Pillsbury isn't using REAL chocolate in their cookies any more. Instead of being made with cocoa butter, their chips use hydrogenated palm kernel oil. EEEEEEEEEEEEEWWW!

Joy also named one of the culprits trying to foist artificial chocolate on us...the chocolate companies.

Last year I heard grumblings that Hershey's was leading the charge to get the FDA to change the definition of chocolate so they could use cheaper ingredients like shortening instead of cocoa butter. I hope Mr. Hershey was buried on a rotisserie, because he must be spinning in his grave daily to over his company first shipping its production off to Mexico, and now besmirching the definition of chocolate by using cheap, disgusting, unhealthy substitutes. Thankfully, I think instead of changing the definition, the FDA opted to force them to use the words "chocolate-flavored" instead.

I figured I'd go to the Hershey's website for equal time, and found Hershey's Syrup with Genuine Chocolate Flavor.

And no ingredient list.

But there was plenty of talk of ingredient lists back when Joy was writing "EEEEEEEEEEEEEWWW!" And guess what? We're ahead of the Europeans:

The EU version of this Standards of Identity (the documents that specify what ingredients can or cannot be in food, and what you can call them) allows manufacturers to substitute up to 5% of the cocoa butter in chocolate and still call the resultant—whatever it is but it's not chocolate as far as I am concerned—"chocolate."

And there are health issues also:

Perhaps more far-reaching in its implications is the fact that cocoa butter protects the antioxidant properties of the chocolate and does not raise cholesterol levels. From a calorie and fat content perspective, the mockolate may be similar to chocolate, but nutritionally, the reformulated products may fall short of predecessors. And consumers who read that chocolate is healthy, may not know the difference.

Especially if the ingredient list isn't readily available. Well, a suggested ingredient list is available at this page:

The only ingredients in a good Chocolate bar are: CACAO PASTE, sugar, COCOA BUTTER, lecithin, and vanilla.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How a Canadian budget bill can affect American shoppers (Idle No More)

Earlier in December, Canada adopted its budget.

The Harper government’s budget was set to become law, after the Senate approved a second omnibus implementation bill on the last day of the 2012 parliamentary session.

By a vote of 50-27, the Senate passed the government’s second budget implementation bill.... The bill was then sent to the Governor General to be signed in to law. A royal assent ceremony was to take place soon thereafter....

The bill passed through the Commons with little debate, garnering support from all parties in the House.

The budget bill, Bill C-45, includes changes to public sector pension plans, a new electronic travel authorization system, pay raises for judges and changes to environmental protection and reviews for lakes and rivers.


Bill C-45...amends the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canada Labour Code....

Now, would anyone be upset about that?

Over the past number of months, First Nations across Canada have been up in arms about the suite of legislation being considered in the absence of the fiduciary legal duty to consult and accommodate, these include: (1) Bill C-27 – First Nation Financial Transparency Act, (2) Bill C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, (3) Bill S-2 – Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, (4) Bill S-6 – First Nations Elections Act, (5) Bill S-8 – First Nations Safe Drinking Water Act, (6) Bill S-207 – An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act and, (7) Bill S-212 – First Nations Self Government Recognition Act.

For those who are not familiar with the term "First Nations," that is the Canadian way to talk about Native Americans (in this case, Native Canadians). And while different names are used, both the Canadian and American native peoples have concluded treaties with the national governments - treaties which have at times been ignored.

In this case, the First Nations took action.

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy along with members of the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy comprising of—Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Anishinabek Nation, Grand Council Treaty #3, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians and Independent First Nations—representing close to 250,000 First Nations in Ontario, reiterated the position of the Chiefs that Bill C-45 will not be enforced or recognized by their First Nations.

But even before Bill C-45 was formally passed, a movement called Idle No More had begun among the First Nations.

Idle No More began with 4 women, Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon, sharing a vision of bringing together all people to ensure we create ways of protecting Mother Earth, her lands, waters and people. The women began discussing the possible impacts that some of the legislation would carry if people do not do something. It became very evident that the women MUST do something about the colonial, unilateral and paternalistic legislation being pushed through the Government of Canada’s parliamentary system. They began with a piece of legislation called Bill C-45 which attacked the land base reserved for Indigenous people.

The women decided that they would call a rally to inform the public that this bill intended to, without consent give the minister of indian affairs power to surrender the lands reserved....

The women seen that there were many other communities that needed to come together in an act solidarity and resurgence to assert their inherent rights as a sovereign Nation, thus The National Day of Solidarity and Resurgence was called for December 10, 2012. This was an enormous event that never in history seen many nations and diverse groups of people come together.

But the rallying didn't end on December 10. I should clarify (again for we Americans) that "Boxing Day" occurs on December 26.

A mall on Boxing Day is not where you would expect to see a round dance, especially not as part of a national protest, but that’s exactly what happened at the Cornwall Centre in Regina on Wednesday.

There aren’t many occasions when First Nations, Christmas, a hunger strike and a dancing flash mob converge at one common juncture — but it happened at Carrefour Angrignon in LaSalle on Monday.

But take a look at these two:

A social-media organized "Idle No More" flash mob drew an estimated 100 participants to the Grand Traverse Mall in Traverse City on December 22nd and over 300 participants to the RiverTown Crossings mall in Grand Rapids on December 23rd. Participants engaged in drumming and singing in a common area of the mall to draw attention to the "Idle No More" movement. Those in Traverse City were met with police presence but no arrestable offense was made.

A group of several dozen Native Americans occupied the Tacoma Mall food court this afternoon as part of a series of actions protesting proposed legislation in Canada that they believe would erode aboriginal treaty rights in that country.

In the latter case, mall security eventually asked the protestors to leave, and then banned them from the mall for 24 hours. (Some reports claim that "Native Americans" were banned from the mall for 24 hours, but I can't substantiate that.)

Flash mobs in malls are, at least presently, an attention-getting tactic for the Idle No More folks. But, as the Occupy movement demonstrated, there can be negative consequences to disrupting business.

Last year, an influx of minority-owned shops and galleries helped revive downtown Oakland and freshen the city’s image. But as the Occupy Oakland protests escalated, enterprisers saw their buildings vandalized, their wares stolen and their dreams dashed. For Alanna Rayford, whose Afrocentric art once drew admirers to her cathedral building space, the looting of the site she does business in has given her pause. When windows were broken and artwork was stolen on November 2, “It was really disheartening,” she said. Although initially supportive of the Occupy movement, Rayford soon found herself explaining to protestors the impact that property destruction has had on her business.

Now people can argue that mall businesses are at least somewhat controlled by the 1%, and that mall businesses differ from independent shops. But whether a business is big or small, people are affected:

Twenty-one restaurant workers lost their jobs last week because of the disruptions caused by the Occupy Wall Street protests, the cafe owner said Tuesday.

Marc Epstein, owner of the Milk Street Cafe at 40 Wall St., said he had no choice but to let nearly a quarter of his staff go last Friday after he saw his sales drop by 30 percent in the six weeks since the protests started.

"What are [the protesters] trying to accomplish here?" Epstein asked Monday. "The end result is that I and all the wonderful people who work for me are collateral damage."

Epstein said he supports people's right to protest, but said the biggest problem is the police barricades that have lined Wall Street since Sept. 17, making it difficult for people to see his restaurant and cross the street to get to it. Epstein has also had to contend with closed subway entrances, police checkpoints and frequent Occupy Wall Street marches, which he said have dampened the Financial District's formerly thriving street life.

In the end, Milk Street Cafe survived, and it's important to note that the Idle No More protestors are staging one-off events and are anywhere.

But now, if you're in the United States and hear drums and chanting in your favorite mall one day, you now know why.

P.S. Credit to Allan Barry Laboucan, who alerted this American to what is transpiring in his country, and in mine.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What is Facebook really doing with its $1 inbox payments?

Before the tempest hits the teapot, let's allow Facebook to have its say on its new experiment:

Facebook Messages is designed to get the most relevant messages into your Inbox and put less relevant messages into your Other folder. We rely on signals about the message to achieve this goal.

Some of these signals are social – we use social signals such as friend connections to determine whether a message is likely to be one you want to see in your Inbox.

Some of these signals are algorithmic – we use algorithms to identify spam and use broader signals from the social graph, such as friend of friend connections or people you may know, to help determine relevance.

Today we’re starting a small experiment to test the usefulness of economic signals to determine relevance. This test will give a small number of people the option to pay to have a message routed to the Inbox rather than the Other folder of a recipient that they are not connected with.

Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful.

This test is designed to address situations where neither social nor algorithmic signals are sufficient. For example, if you want to send a message to someone you heard speak at an event but are not friends with, or if you want to message someone about a job opportunity, you can use this feature to reach their Inbox. For the receiver, this test allows them to hear from people who have an important message to send them.

This message routing feature is only for personal messages between individuals in the U.S. In this test, the number of messages a person can have routed from their Other folder to their Inbox will be limited to a maximum of one per week.

We’ll continue to iterate and evolve Facebook Messages over the coming months.

Now remember what this does. All it does is move a message from the "Other" box to the Inbox, provided that the maximum routing limits haven't already been exceeded.

This does not allow people to pay a dollar to send you a message; they can already do that. Even though Mark Zuckerberg is not my Facebook friend, I can send him a message right now. And there is a chance that my message may go into his inbox without my paying $1 to him. If my message mentions Robert Scoble (a mutual friend) or includes certain words such as "hoodie" or "billion," the message may pass the social or algorithmic filters and end up in his inbox.

Let's hope so, because I'm sure that Zuckerberg will get more than one request per week to move a message to his inbox, so it will be hard to pay $1 to get a message into his inbox.

The tech and entertainment outsourcing paradise - Pyongyang?

On Google+, Steve Juranich recently shared a post from The Verge about a new game, Pyongyang Racer.

Yes, Pyongyang Racer. As in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Who would create an online game about notoriously tech-backward North Korea?

The North Koreans, of course. From The Verge:

The "goal" of Pyongyang Racer is to explore the country's capital city while collecting fuel barrels to keep your car moving. Other than popular destinations in the city — which are surprisingly well-modeled compared to the rest of the game — there's not a whole lot to see.

The Verge notes that the game was developed for Koryo, a travel company offering trips to you-know-where. The game is apparently available at, although with all of the current attention on the game I wasn't able to get it to load.

The actual development was performed by another company, Nosotek. I had never heard of this firm, so I read about it.

Nosotek is the first western IT venture in DPRK (North Korea).

Nosotek employs over 50 programmers, drawn "from the mathematics elite." Significantly, the programmers enjoy Internet access - a rarity in North Korea.

This particular statement, however, definitely caught my attention:

Nosotek was set-up in DPRK because IP secrecy and minimum employee churn rate are structurally guaranteed.

Compare this to other outsourcing destinations, such as India or the Philippines, where you can easily quit working for one company and start working for another company. In North Korea, they have ways of making you work. If you don't believe me, consider this Dave Gunderson Google+ share of the story of Kim Jong-Il's movie producing career. Despite having unlimited power in North Korea, producer Kim was unable to locate sufficient movie-making talent. He then devised a solution.

South Korean director Shin Sang-ok, widely regarded as the Orson Welles of the peninsula, had modernised movies when people needed them most. In the wake of the Korean war he make at least 60 movies in 20 years. He and his wife, the well-known actress Choi Eun-hee, were well placed amongst Seoul’s celebrity set.

But in 1978 Shin clashed with the repressive government of General Park Chung Hee. His studio was closed. Kim grabbed the opportunity and lured the two to Repulse Bay in Hong Kong on a bogus business trip. Choi was the first to disappear after heading over to discuss an acting job. Concerned, Shin followed her trail – only to be wrapped in plastic, with a chloroform-soaked sack over the head on his way home from dinner.

After ending up in North Korea, the pair received job offers that they couldn't refuse. Literally.

Shin says that shortly after arriving in Pyongyang he made several attempts to escape, only to end up with four years at Prison No 6....Shin endured four years in the all-male prison – wondering whether his ex-wife was dead – while being fed a diet of grass, salt, rice and Party dogma.

Eventually Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee accepted Kim Jong-Il's job offer and made several movies in North Korea. All seemed well, and there was "minimum employee churn" - until 1986.

Plans were made for a joint venture with a company in Austria to distribute [Pulgasari, a North Korean Godzilla-like film]. Soon, Kim trusted the director to travel to western Europe for a business meeting. As a trip to Vienna approached, Shin writes, a plan began to form. They had no doubts about wanting to leave their comfortable lifestyle....

During the trip, Shin and Choi were able to escape with the help of a Japanese movie critic friend. Meeting him for lunch, they fled by taxi to the American embassy, shaking off one of Kim's agents in another taxi.

After the embarrassing escape of his star propagandists, Kim Jong-il shelved Pulgasari and every other Shin film.

So if you're looking to outsource your development, and you want to invite Nosotek employees to a meeting in Silicon Valley - don't count on it.

P.S. Shin and Choi's departure did not shut down North Korea's film industry. Far from it. I blogged about other Kim Jong-Il era North Korean films back in 2006, including such titles as "The Leader Is the Great Father of Our People," "The Fatherly Leader with the Working Class," "Having the Great Brilliant Commander," "Care Shown to Make Their Lives Shine," and "Legend of Love Created on the Road of On-site Guidance." No mention of "Pulgasari" in this particular film festival, although North Korea did permit the film to be shown outside the country in 1998.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Keeping focused (Google apps on Windows Phone 8)

Recently I took MySpace to task for not supporting Internet Explorer. But MySpace isn't the only company that isn't so hot about Microsoft. V3:

[T]he firm's product management director at Google Apps, Clay Bavor, said that due to what it sees as a lack of interest from its clients on the systems, it is holding back on any work at present.

"We have no plans to build out Windows apps. We are very careful about where we invest and will go where the users are but they are not on Windows Phone or Windows 8," he said.

"If that changes, we would invest there, of course."

Instead Bavor said the firm was committed to continually improving and updating its iOS and Android products.

InformationWeek provides the numbers:

Third-party studies show Bavor's concerns aren't without some justification. Windows Phone currently holds just 3.2% of the mobile operating system market, according to the latest numbers from ComScore. Apple holds 34.3%%, while market leader Google, with its Android OS, commands a 53.6% share.

This doesn't mean that Windows Phone 8 users lost. Alexey Strakh has written gMaps, billed as the "Ultimate Windows Phone 7 client for Google Maps." However, Strakh emphatically points out

***We are not related to Google, Inc.***

But companies such as Twitter and Netflix have released apps for Windows Phone. And a Google Search app from Google is available. After all you need something to battle the built-in Bing features.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Should KTBS' social media policy prevent Rhonda Lee from answering questions about...Rhonda Lee?

Many companies are working on setting up social media policies, which can often be summed up as follows: leave it to the professionals. For example, if someone posted a rant about my employer, the proper course of action for me would be to refer this to certain people in my company, and those people would prepare any response. Those people, not myself, are properly the representatives of the company in those situations.

But what if you are on-air talent for a television station, and the rant is about you?

This is what happened to Rhonda Lee, who used to work for KTBS. Someone went to the KTBS Facebook page and made a comment about Lee's hairstyle, saying that she was wearing her hair too short and wondering if she had cancer. Lee herself replied, saying that she did not have cancer, and explaining the reasons why she wore her hair the way she did.

She was fired. After some Internet talk, KTBS issued the following statement:

On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated violation of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country. Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow. Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.

In the email, an unnamed KTBS marketing project manager instructed all employees to either not respond to Facebook complaints at all, or to direct the complainer to contact information for an unnamed person at KTBS.

It sounds like a wonderful policy, but the policy itself has resulted in a number of complaints on the KTBS 3 News Facebook page. True to form, KTBS apparently is not responding (other than the statement above).

The one thing that makes me uncomfortable about KTBS' response is what it says about KTBS' opinion of its on-air talent. Television stations want us to think that the weather people on TV are our friends - people we can talk to. But according to KTBS' stated policy, its own on-air talent is apparently not smart enough to respond to personal questions on Facebook. In essence, this reduces the on-air talent to talking heads who are only allowed to perform on camera, when adult supervision is present.

While I can understand a company setting a social media policy for "back office" people, I can't understand why KTBS restricts the actions of its public-facing folks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to sell your holiday items - know what your holiday items are

This was shared on a limited (not public) basis on Google+, so I can't give credit where credit is due, but one of my Google+ friends wanted to buy a gift for a co-worker. The friend often went to Wendy's with this co-worker, so the friend thought that this would be an ideal gift.

So the friend went to Wendy's and asked the person behind the counter for a gift card.

"A what?" asked the woman behind the counter.

My friend pointed to the sign in front of the cash register, telling people that they could buy Wendy's gift cards. The puzzled cashier looked at the sign, then told my friend that she didn't know how to sell those.

Eventually a manager came by, and after some more waiting, the manager was able to sell my friend a holiday gift card.

Maybe my friend should have just bought a gift card online.

Are you sure Dave (Thomas) done it this way?

Ingres is not Ingress...and Ingres is not Ingres either

I've been blogging a lot about Google Ingress lately - if you haven't seen it, here's my post in my tymshft blog addressed to public safety personnel, explaining why people may be running around their cities and "hacking" fire stations. People are obviously interested in the game, and are using search engines such as Google's to find information about it.

In fact, one of my blog posts was recently visited due to a Google search for "ingres game google."

Note, however, that the searcher only used one "s" in "ingres." As a result, the searcher ended up at a post I wrote in 2010, long before the Google Ingress game entered closed beta.

The title of the 2010 post? Has Ingres raised the stakes of the game? The post had nothing to do with augmented reality, but instead discusses an enhancement that allows faster processing of Ingres database queries.

Well, Vectorwise is actually Ingress, or Actian, or something:

Ingres descendent Actian says its Vectorwise analytics database tech doesn't need to rely on a flash memory boost: it uses multicore x86 features so well it's more than twice as fast as Oracle and SQL Server, and uses server, storage and networking hardware up to 40 times cheaper - or so we're told.

Actian is actually Ingres....The company was bought by ASK in the early 1990s; ASK was acquired by CA in 1994. A private equity group, Garnett and Helfrich, bought the Ingres assets from CA in 2005. It's been renamed and relaunched.

But there are people like me who have heard of Ingres but aren't familiar with the name Actian. And there are just enough of us around, apparently, that there is now confusion between a relational database and an augmented reality game.

(empo-plaaybizz) Is the backlash against gamification hype ITSELF hype?

I've been talking about gamification for years, and the folks at the AppsLab blog have been discussing it for far longer. If I can take the liberty of defining it, "gamification" refers to the addition of incentives to an application to promote desired behaviors. Want someone to learn how to use Microsoft Word? Create a training game. Want to get people to tell you when they visit businesses? Create a service that rewards you for providing this information.

I think that I can honestly say that I've discussed gamification without hyping it, and I know that Jake Kuramoto has discussed gamification without hyping it. The same cannot be said for other entities:

Only last year, the US-based analysts Gartner predicted that 70% of the world's top 2000 companies will be using gamification in some form by 2014.

70%? Perhaps the definition of "in some form" is elastic, but this statistic seems surprising, even to the most starry-eyed gamification devotee.

Well, there's a more recent prediction out:

Just 12 months after Gartner predicted the huge growth in the genre, it released another report saying that “gamification is currently being driven by novelty and hype”. By 2014, it predicts that 80% of gamification applications will fail to deliver “because of poor design”.

Well, when Larry Rosenthal saw this quick about-face, he offered the following comment:

Gartner soon needs to print the UP and DOWN "finding" of its Hyped techs at one time.

Actually, this is unusual behavior for one of these analysis companies. Normally the company will issue a prediction in 2007 saying that widgets will be really really big by 2010. By the time 2010 rolls about, the company predicts that widgets will be really really big by 2013. I don't think I've run across such a contradiction of a previous prediction before.

Perhaps the analysis companies think that we have short memories, and didn't realize that at least one BBC reporter (Nic Fleming) does have a longer memory.

More later.

What is your Phineas-Hirshfield Score?

This, the third Empoprises Rule, is actually not a rule at all, but a scoring system.

We like scores. We like scores because they are easy to evaluate. When we have to make a business or personal decision, it's much easier to make the decision if you can somehow quantify it.

This is especially true in the job arena. The easiest decisions to make are those that are based upon Boolean yes/no criteria. Does this job candidate have a college degree? No? OK, that person is removed from consideration.

When you don't have Boolean decision points, then numerical decision points are always good for easy decision making. If Candidate A has a 4.0 grade point average (on the American scale) and Candidate B has a much worse 1.0 grade point average, then your decision is easy.

Which brings us to Klout.

I've discussed Klout before, in an April 28 post that mentioned the experience of Sam Fiorella, who missed out on a marketing position because he had a Klout score of 34. The hiring company used certain criteria to make its hiring decision. Whether we agree with this criteria or not, Kimberly Reynolds made the point (in the comments to the post) that "if the employers believe [a high Klout score] is relevant to them, it is relevant."


But there's a part of me that is wondering about all of this emphasis on scores, and I'm wondering how I could use it to my advantage. If I were in a job hunting situation, I'd want to get my resume (or its digital equivalent, the LinkedIn page) to the top of the (physical or virtual) pile. Since a job candidate only has a few seconds to make an impression, you have to make that impression quickly. So if you don't have a 4.0 grade point average or a Klout score of 100, what do you do?

Enter the Phineas-Hirshfield Score. (Yes, this is an Empoprises Rule, copyright 2012 John E. Bredehoft. So if you're an employment firm and want to use the Phineas-Hirshfield Score, contact me with your payment proposal. I'll accept U.S. dollars, Canadian dollars, and Euros. Oh, and Swiss francs.)

I am really really tempted to go to my LinkedIn page right now and throw this statement somewhere into the summary:

"I have a Phineas-Hirshfield Score of 92."

Let's say that I apply for the job and mention my Phineas-Hirshfield score somewhere on my application. After I apply, let's say that the hiring person is looking over resumes, and can't decide whether to call me in for an interview or not. The hiring person then sees my Phineas-Hirshfield score, and it gets the hiring person curious. If my resume looks OK otherwise, the hiring person may bring me in, just to find out what this Phineas-Hirshfield score is. Or at least that's my thinking.

So let's say that I get called in for an interview, and after dispensing with the manhole covers question, the interviewer finally gets around to asking about my Phineas-Hirshfield score.

At that point, I will simply explain that the Phineas-Hirshfield score measures, on a scale of 0 to 100, the probability that someone will ask exactly what the Phineas-Hirshfield score is.

There's a part that I probably won't explain to the interviewer - how I got the name "Phineas-Hirshfield" for this particular measurement system. Phineas comes from Phineas Taylor Barnum, more commonly known as P.T. Barnum, who was reputed (but not proven) to have made the statement, "There's a sucker born every minute."

But what about Hirshfield? This is named for Leo Hirshfield.

An Austrian immigrant, Leo Hirshfield, produced the candy in a small store in New York City and ended up naming the candy after his five-year-old daughter Clara, whose nickname was "Tootsie."

The company has since diversified from Tootsie Rolls, and produces products such as Tootsie Pops (as in "how many licks does it take to get to the center of..."). Again, a sucker.

Perhaps you're wondering why I, as the creator of the world famous Phineas-Hirshfield Score, did not award myself a perfect score of 100. That's easy to answer. I figure that a few of the people who read this blog know me personally, and some of the others who read this blog have been reading me for years. If these particular people suddenly see that I'm referring to something called "the Phineas-Hirshfield Score," a certain subset of them will say to themselves, "Oh, John's just making that up," and won't even bother to ask the question.

P.S. In case you missed the first two Empoprises Rules (which actually were rules), here are links to the Empoprises FECES Rule of Corporate Me-Tooism and the Empoprises RCDCR Rule of Insider Food Talk.

P.P.S. As to the answer to the REAL Hirshfield question - 1,121. I checked as a child. I figured it was more than 3.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is it respectable to pursue business in Britain? Or in the United States?

While reading about the late Princess Diana, I encountered a list, compiled by the British Broadcasting Corporation from viewer input, of the 100 Greatest Britons.

The list consisted of royalty (Diana was number 3), politicians (Winston Churchill was number 1), musicians (3 of the 4 Beatles are on the list), and others.

But where were the people who were primarily known as business owners?

Certainly many of the people on the list (Paul McCartney, for example) were successful in business, but they were known for other reasons. McCartney, for example, is a successful musician who invested in music-related properties.

So how far down the list do we have to go to find someone specifically identified as a business leader?

All the way down to number 85.

85. Sir Richard Branson (1950-) - Businessman.

At about the same time that the BBC created the list above, it ranked the top professions in Britain. All of the top professions - doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, and paramedics - were outside of the scope of business and commerce.

A 2006 United States survey cited by Forbes actually had similar results (although firefighters were at the top after my country's 9/11 experience).

An interesting twist in the survey's results are that none of the top-ten most admired jobs can be accurately described as being driven by the profit motive--quite a contradiction in a country that was built on it. The A-list is comprised of those who serve others, including engineers (they build things) and farmers (who "feed the world").

Forbes, which of course is a business-oriented publication, wondered about the negative perception of business. And remember that this was written BEFORE the 2008 recession.

Why? It may be that those who seek fortune are to seem crass by appearing to support professions that support their own interests.

But others say there's more to it than that. "As people gain economically, they develop more of an appreciation for those who take care of them, who make their own gains possible," says Robert Billingham, a professor of human development at Indiana University.

Monday, December 10, 2012

For police agencies - did Google educate you on its new Ingress game? Why not?

Those who are used to asking "what could go wrong" were justifiably alarmed when Google released its "Community Guidelines" for Ingress. Here's an excerpt:

Don’t trespass while playing Ingress (and don’t try to lawyer that guideline, just respect it). Do not access any property or location while playing the game if you’re not sure you have the right to be there.

Yes, fans of a game can be fanatic, and it's conceivable that someone could venture onto a military base or a prison just to hack that portal. Or, more likely, someone may forget that a place that is public during the day, such as a beach or a park, may be closed after the sun sets - so if you're there at 10:00 pm, you may be trespassing.

This has been enough to turn some people off of Ingress altogether - and also off of geocaching, hiking, and photography.

Photography? Yes:

Over the objections of some civil liberties groups, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved controversial new guidelines Tuesday for when LAPD officers can document suspicious behavior they believe could be linked to terrorism.

The five-member civilian oversight panel unanimously approved a special order that gives officers the authority to write reports on people whose actions might not break any laws, such as taking a photograph of a power plant.

When you consider that many of the initial Ingress portals in the United States are fire stations and post offices, the sight of someone standing outside a government facility, furiously doing things with his or her smartphone, is potentially enough to launch an investigation. Maybe not enough to make an arrest, but certainly enough to detain you for several hours.

In the best case, the police officer stops you, you show the officer your Android phone, and the officer just says, "Well, I'm Enlightened, but even though you're Resistance, I'm going to let you go."

In the worst case, the police officer stops you, you show the officer your Android phone, and the officer heroically springs into action:

In an interdepartmental statement dispatched on August 16, Beck writes, “Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person” is enough of a red flag to have authorities file a suspicious activity report, or SAR. According to departmental policies, those SAR files are then sent into a Consolidated Crime and Analysis Database (CCAD), where they are occasionally added to a Crime Analysis Mapping System (CAMS) for further investigation. From there, intelligence can be stored in a Information Sharing Environment (ISE) Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Shared Space and accessed at fusion centers across the country, such as the LA area’s Joint Regional Intelligence Center, where other intel is interpreted, dissected and divulged by agencies like the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Of course, much of this could be avoided if the police officers were familiar with the Google game Ingress. As part of its marketing plan, Google would certainly want to make sure that police agencies were aware of the game.

I'm sure that Google took care of that little matter.

Didn't they?

Why not?


Hey Googlers, at least Braeburn Capital is not in Bermuda

Remember my October post about Braeburn Capital, the Apple subsidiary that was created to take advantage of Nevada tax law? In that post, I noted that Tyler Durden thought that these tax loopholes would receive renewed attention once the Presidential election in the United States was over.

Well, the election is over, we're about to sequester ourselves over a fiscal cliff, and governments in...Europe are looking at...Google.

It seems that Apple isn't the only company avoiding taxes, and the United States isn't the only country that is losing out on tax revenue.

Robert Patton shared an article from Bloomberg:

Google Inc. (GOOG) avoided about $2 billion in worldwide income taxes in 2011 by shifting $9.8 billion in revenues into a Bermuda shell company, almost double the total from three years before, filings show.

Now I'll grant that $9.8 billion is not $117 billion, but we're still dealing with Sagan-like numbers here. And European governments aren't happy:

Last week, the European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, advised member states to create blacklists of tax havens and adopt anti-abuse rules. Tax evasion and avoidance, which cost the EU 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) a year, are “scandalous” and “an attack on the fundamental principle of fairness,” Algirdas Semeta, the EC’s commissioner for taxation, said at a press conference in Brussels.

Of course this will be a nasty fight, since the governments want money to continue services, and the governments will claim that Google and Apple are throwing people on the street. The tech companies, on the other hand, want money to continue what they do, and the companies will claim that California and the European governments are throwing people on the street.

At the end of the day, do you trust your government to provide for you, or do you trust the tech companies to provide for you?

Some people don't trust either one of them.

What is the main business of an educational institution?

Some colleges and universities in the United States have been heavily criticized and accused of perverting the educational process by emphasizing athletics. While professors at some post-secondary institutions survive on food stamps (I'm not kidding), name football and basketball coaches can sometimes earn millions of dollars per year. Proponents of the arrangement claim that these high-profile coaches not only benefit the less lucrative academic programs, but also bring revenue and prestige to the academic institution as a whole.

I could devote an entire blog post to this, except for one thing.

These star coaches are not the real money-makers at educational institutions.

After reading a Google+ share by Don McArthur, I found the source article by Ron Unz. The article is entitled "Paying Tuition to a Giant Hedge Fund." This particular hedge fund is more commonly known as Harvard University.


Harvard’s Division of Arts and Sciences—the central core of academic activity—contains approximately 450 full professors, whose annual salaries tend to average the highest at any university in America. Each year, these hundreds of great scholars and teachers receive aggregate total pay of around $85 million. But in fiscal 2004, just the five top managers of the Harvard endowment fund shared total compensation of $78 million, an amount which was also roughly 100 times the salary of Harvard’s own president. These figures clearly demonstrate the relative importance accorded to the financial and academic sides of Harvard’s activities.

Unz also makes the following claim:

The typical private foundation is legally required to spend 5 percent of its assets on charitable activities, and with Harvard’s endowment now back over $30 billion, that sum would come to around $1.5 billion annually. This is many times the total amount of undergraduate tuition, which should obviously be eliminated, thereby removing a substantial financial barrier to enrollment or even application.

Now it should be granted that Harvard is an exceptional case, and most educational institutions don't have $30 billion endowments. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average endowment of 1,189 colleges that reported figures was around $313 million, and 66 colleges had endowments that exceeded $1 billion.

Endowments fluctuate in value, and Unz noted that Harvard almost went bankrupt in 2008 when the economy tanked. But Unz thinks that this itself is a problem, since the ability of educational institutions to provide services is significantly dependent upon a factor that has nothing to do with education itself.

Some colleges live in fear of the "death penalty" from the NCAA. What if the Securities and Exchange Commission started issuing "death penalties" of its own, and some of these endowments tanked?

APE - Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch have co-authored an ebook entitled APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How to Publish a Book. I "beta tested" a draft of the book (for other pertinent disclosures about my involvement and compensation, see HERE), and therefore had some advance familiarity with the book's contents.

The book, of course, is about book publishing. I first became aware of Kawasaki's writing in the 1980s - The Macintosh Way was one of my three favorite books from that decade. Obviously, the climate of book publishing has changed in some significant ways since Kawasaki was an Apple evangelist. Desktop publishing was of course the rage at that time, but we were still over a decade away from online stores from which electronic "books" could be purchased.

After some introductory discussion of how traditional publishing works (and all of the people involved), Kawasaki and Welch present an alternative model that is now available thanks to the new technologies. However, as the title of the book suggests, the person who uses this new model needs to take on additional roles; in the older model, the publishing company itself would fulfill these.

The book is divided into three parts - author, publisher, entrepreneur. Beginning with the "author" section of the book, Kawasaki and Welch discuss topics such as the best word processor for an author to use (and why this particular word processor is preferable); ways to write the book (including "vomiting it out" at an early stage and refining later).

Meanwhile the author also has to work as a self-publisher. The "publisher" section of the book covers those topics that a traditional author doesn't have to worry about, but a self-published author does. How do you get an editor? (Kawasaki and Welch emphasize that you'll need an editor. Yes, you'll need an editor.) How do you create a self-published book that doesn't look like...a self-published book? What is the serial comma? What are your options for distributing your book? Once you've selected a distribution method, how do you sell your book? Detailed analyses of several book distribution and sales methods (for example, Smashwords) are presented.

Once the book is written and published, how do people find out about it? This is discussed in the "entrepreneur" section of the book. One topic is guerrilla marketing - for example, when Guy Kawasaki suggests to his beta testers that they may want to blog about the book. See how this works? And remember that t-shirt that I'll be receiving soon? The authors also discuss the term "personal brand" - and yes, I know that some of my readers hate the term, but Kawasaki and Welch talk about things such as trustworthiness and competence, which are important whether you use the "personal brand" buzzword or not. The use of social media is also discussed in detail.

The paragraphs above are but a brief summary of the material covered in the book - there are a total of 29 chapters that delve into the author, publisher, and entrepreneur roles. I have not self-published a book, so I can't say whether the material is truly comprehensive; however, as a prospective self-publisher, it contains a wealth of information that I can reference during the process.

Oh, and when Guy sent us beta testers an email encouraging us to blog about the book, he also sent us a link which can be used to purchase a copy on Amazon:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

APE - Acknowledgement, Praise, Exhortation

First, I acknowledge that this post serves as a DISCLOSURE in relation to a future post regarding a particular ebook. It is pertinent to disclose that I reviewed a draft copy of the ebook in question, in the role of a beta tester. In return, I received a copy of the final ebook, and I will be receiving a t-shirt shortly. (Yes, this is a tech-related ebook.)

Second, I praise the authors for allowing me the opportunity to make suggestions during my review of the draft. I have no idea whether any of my suggestions were implemented (I reviewed the draft some time ago, and haven't had a chance to read the final copy yet), but the opportunity turned out to be timely for personal reasons that I may discuss at a future time.

Third, I exhort you, the reader, to keep an eye out for my review of the book in question.


Alex Scoble - "She never asked us"

Last Tuesday, I posted an item based upon a piece by Gavin Ingham. The original piece was entitled "He never asked me," and told the tale of a salesman who pursued his own agenda and didn't bother to ask what Ingham actually needed.

This evening, I ran across a second example - this one from Alex Scoble.

Scoble encountered multiple problems when he and his wife visited Aloha Sew and Vac in Beaverton, Oregon. Read his post for all of the gory details. But here's a prime example of a salesperson not listening to a customer. A little background - don't tell Cassie, but she's getting a sewing machine as a Christmas present. The sewing machine was purchased at Costco; while it's a good sewing machine, it's not a Porsche of sewing machines. The Scobles were looking for some stuff to complement the sewing machine - some lessons, and perhaps a table for the machine they already had.


If [the salesperson] had been listening, she would know that we are in the market for an entry level machine that can do interesting things. We aren't yet ready to spend $1000+ for something. Yet that's exactly what she started pushing us towards. I kid you not, at one point she points to a machine and tells us that the unit is normally $2800 but is on sale for $1400 and it's a fantastic machine at that price. Great, so we come in looking for a Honda Fit and this person starts selling us a Porsche 911.

Ignore for the moment the insulting manner in which the salesperson treats her customers (more detail is provided in Scoble's post). When two people are looking for item A, why sell them item B?

And yes, I am familiar with the whole concept of upselling. However, in this case the Scobles were not looking to buy a sewing machine. They went into the store looking for sewing machine LESSONS AND A TABLE - not a sewing machine itself. But that didn't make a difference to the salesperson.

Scoble's summation:

Try listening to your customers and if you don't have anything to offer to them, give them a reason to come back when they are ready for what you do have to offer.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Uh, Foxconn has been in the United States for several years now

The story is going viral, but you have to read the story very carefully.

Right after Apple tactically announced that they were going to do some Macintosh manufacturing in the United States, another company made a similar announcement.

The company? Foxconn, whose existing factories in China are well-known.

Here's how Bloomberg BusinessWeek started its story:

Foxconn Technology Group, the major supplier to Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), seeks to expand its operations in North America as customers request more of their products be Made in U.S.A.

“We are looking at doing more manufacturing in the U.S. because, in general, customers want more to be done there,” Louis Woo, a Foxconn spokesman, said in a phone interview. He declined to comment on individual clients or specific plans.

Did you catch the words "expand" and "more manufacturing"?

You see, Foxconn's global presence already includes a facility in the United States - and although I didn't know it at the time, I was tangentially part of the story.

Back in 2008, I was working for Motorola. At the time, Motorola was providing a wide range of products, from automated fingerprint identification systems to police radios to cellular telephones. The company was thinking about splitting into two separate companies - something that it ended up doing a few years later. At the same time, it was cutting costs and operations like mad (my own division would be sold by Motorola in 2009).

And Motorola was also laying off employees at a Plantation, Florida facility. This provided a pool of skilled workers that could be hired by other companies.

Foxconn moved in.

Multinational computer and electronic parts manufacturer Foxconn International Holdings is planning a 200-employee facility in western Broward County....

The goal is to have the facility up and designing by early June, according to Julio Abdala, Foxconn's VP of engineers.

A majority of the new hires were recently laid off from Motorola's Plantation hub, he said.

In fact, Foxconn's South Florida expansion, Abdala said, is a direct result of its ability to hire those high-skilled workers.

And Foxconn can keep on hiring. Motorola Mobility laid off more workers earlier this year, so those workers could presumably be hired by companies such as Foxconn, Citrix, and General Dynamics. But not by Research in Motion; RIM is laying off its own people.

It's uncertain whether Foxconn's newly-announced plans to "expand" and provide "more manufacturing" in the United States will be centered on south Florida, or on some other US location or locations.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Who are your customers?

Who are your customers?

It may be obvious to you, but is it really?

I have previously noted that there is a big understanding regarding who Google's customers are. Hint: if you're performing a Google search, you are NOT one of Google's customers.

InformationWeek recently made that point in another area. Two recent columns - one from Chris Murphy, and a second from Rob Preston - encouraged company Chief Information Officers (CIOs) to get to know their customers. Since M comes before P, I'll let Chris Murphy explain what they're talking about:

So here's what I propose for 2013: Make IT measurably more relevant to your customers. I'm talking about end customers, the people or companies that buy our stuff -- not IT's internal customers, a.k.a. employees.

In actuality, it's more complicated than that.

Are Google's customers its advertisers, or the people who use its services? Yes.

Are IT's customers the company's employees, or the people who buy the company's products? Yes.

Perhaps you can come up with a fancy name like "stakeholders" to cover all the different types of people impacted by your work, but at the end of the day, you have to pay attention to all of their needs.

So ask yourself - who are your customers?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The new MySpace does not support Internet Explorer - dumb move

For the last year or so, there's been some talk about the new MySpace, as it repositions itself away from the animated GIF crowd and toward a music-oriented demographic.

However, it is apparent that the new MySpace does not want me to participate.

On Google+, I saw an announcement from someone who has transitioned to the new MySpace profile. I figured that I'd check Joe's new profile out to see what MySpace has to offer.

Unfortunately, I encountered this message:

If you look carefully at the icons, you'll see that there are icons for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. One very popular browser happens to be missing.

If you've read my posts for a while, you know what's coming. (Ann Landers mode time.)

So MySpace, I'll be happy to download one of those three browsers instead of the browser that I'm currently using on this computer.

Um...there's one condition.

Are you willing to pay my salary?

Because, you see, the computer that I'm using now isn't mine. My computer at home has browsers other than Internet Explorer, but that's a computer that I control. When I'm at lunch, however, I'm using a computer that I don't own - and if I insist on updating this computer, I might have a little minor problem with my future employment.

So after I pack up my things and am escorted off the premises, I can go home and play with a Safari web browser all I want - well, that is, until I have to cancel the Internet access, sell the computer, and move my family to Tent City.

Even though Tent City closed several years ago, after I wrote this rant. (Yes, I'm copying what I wrote a few years ago, but that's because the computer industry is copying the stupid moves that it made a few years ago.)

Now I'll grant that unless you're in the music industry, there's no overriding business case to access MySpace. Which is good, because as of now all of the new MySpace profiles are inaccessible to a lot of corporate America. I was unable to access statistics to see which computers only had a single web browser installed, but these statistics from earlier this year are illuminating:

The IE8 browser was the most used desktop browser, making up 25.4 percent of the market, followed by IE9 with 15.17 percent. Chrome 17 took third place with 14.73 percent, while Firefox claimed fourth place with 7.79 percent market share.

OK, perhaps an exclusionary tactic can be justified if you are a leader in your market. For example, if you're Apple, you can say that you're not going to support this thing or that thing and it really won't matter to a lot of people, because you're Apple. I'm sure that there are some Apple smartphone users running around today convinced that online maps are overrated.

Apple can do that, but can MySpace do that? Regardless of MySpace's actual user base (as of January 2012, even TechCrunch admitted that MySpace had almost as many users as Twitter), the perception is that MySpace is dead. In such a situation, MySpace needs every user that it can get.

The business of football bowls

In many parts of the world, the idea of a university sports team (although this is changing). But in the United States, college and university sports are big business - especially men's football. (And again, we're speaking of American "football," not the "football" played in other parts of the world.)

After the conclusion of the regular season and various divisional championships, the bowl season begins. For the elite teams, this means that they play in a major bowl in January. Currently, the majorest of the major bowls is the Discover BCS National Championship Game on January 7, 2013.

Note that it's not just the BCS National Championship Game. It's the DISCOVER BCS National Championship Game, and Discover presumably paid a whole lot of money so that announcers will associate their name with the BCS. Considering the reputation of the BCS, I'm not sure why.

But while Discover snagged the biggest prize, there are a lot of other sponsors who are associating with a lot of other bowls - some of which begin in less than two weeks. Specifically, things kick off on December 15 with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. For some college guys, one of these bowls will be the highlight of their career. Most college football players don't make it to the NFL, but most football players don't make it to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, either.

Actually, it's surprising that anyone made it to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. As of May 9, 2011, announcements were being made about the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl to take place in December of that year. Less than three months later, on August 2, it was announced that the bowl would be called the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - despite the fact that uDrove had previously signed a long-term sponsorship deal. However, uDrove is apparently putting its money elsewhere - it hasn't issued a press release since April 2011 (although its parent company mentioned uDrove in May 2012).

ESPN lists over thirty bowls that will take place over the next month and a half, and they all have sponsors. All of them. Yes, even including the Rose Bowl - whoops, the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio. Yes, the Tournament of Roses Committee, which really really tries to stay away from controversy (see my November 2007 post for a rare exception - Godwin's Law and the Tournament of Roses Committee!), has now succumbed to corporate sponsorship. Although "Rose" appears before the sponsor name, both the game and the parade are now sponsored. I wonder if the helpful Honda guys and equally helpful Vizio salespeople get an early crack at Tournament of Roses Committee memberships.

I also wonder if the Rose Bowl Queen will get a TV out of the deal. Or a car. Although Sophia Bush (former Rose Queen and star of One Tree Hill) can presumably buy her own car and TV.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

For Starbucks, is the recession over? (Harlan Koch revisited)

In July 2008, I wrote a post in my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog about the closure of several local Starbucks. At the time I mentioned that this was part of an effort by Starbucks to close 600 stores.

Things were not looking well for the company, and most of my blog posts from those days cast the company in a negative light. Starbucks seemed to have lost focus, and was ridiculed by competitors when it closed all its stores to train its baristas in making coffee. It didn't help when it began to face competition from companies like McDonalds.

Well, things may be looking up for Starbucks:

Starbucks is planning to add 3,000 stores over the next five years, with at least half of them in the United States.

The company said Wednesday the new stores will expand its existing global network of 18,000 stores. Starbucks also plans to renovate many of its existing stores.

Cliff Burrows explained the difference between 2008 and today:

Cliff Burrows, who heads Starbucks' domestic business, said the problem wasn't that Starbucks was oversaturated, but that the company hadn't been careful about its store openings.

Burrows claims that they've become smarter about store openings, and that their new stores are performing well. At the same time, Starbucks has acquired companies that can provide new products in their existing locations - baked goods from La Boulange, Teavana teas, and the like.

If Howard Schultz can pull this off, then I'll have to go into my Jim Bakker "I was wrong" routine about the whole Harlan Koch thing. A few years ago, I was saying that Starbucks needed to be led by a passionate person like Harlan Sanders or Jim Koch, and that it didn't look like they'd be able to succeed with the things that they were doing.

Perhaps I was wrong. And you're just waiting to see if I have to do the Jim Bakker routine.

Doing someone else's job - owner, referee, ice cream maker, hairstylist (Mark Cuban)

For each of us, there are some jobs that we are suited for, and there are jobs which would not be good for us. I could not work in the National Football League, but most football players probably couldn't sell public safety software either. One exception: Dan Pastorini, who previously worked for DataWorks Plus (DISCLOSURE: My employer is a competitor to DataWorks Plus).

Mark Cuban has done a lot of things, and sometimes likes to tell other people how to do their job. In a famous incident in 2002, Cuban - owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks - had some choice words for the NBA's director of officials, Ed Rush.

[Cuban] said the league's director of officials Ed Rush "might have been a great ref, but I wouldn't hire him to manage a Dairy Queen."

Needless to say, the National Basketball Association was not enthused with Cuban's comments, and fined him $500,000. (This is a reminder that the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment only applies to government censorship of speech, and has no applicability whatsoever to private organization censorship of speech.)

One other entity had something to say about Cuban's statement.

Minnesota-based Dairy Queen's response came Thursday in a news release:

"We are certainly impressed that Dairy Queen is top of mind with Mark Cuban. We like the publicity he's generated for us. But Mr. Cuban may be surprised to find out how much it takes to manage a Dairy Queen. We invite Mr. Cuban in to manage a Dairy Queen for a day."

So a little while later, Cuban flew home from a Dallas Mavericks away game and headed toward a Dairy Queen in Coppell, Texas.

He arrived at 6 a.m., after flying home from a Mavericks game in Atlanta, and began training by 6:30.

Kim Skeffington, a regional field consultant whose duties include working with new managers, spent about two hours teaching him the finer points of curling soft serves and mixing a frozen dessert.

James Kelly, who waited about two hours to be first in line, ordered a strawberry version of the dessert — which Skeffington made — then had Cuban sign a novelty $1 million bill.

Cuban's first cone for a customer looked squished on top.

“Be patient with me, please. I'm new at this,” he said with a wink and a smile. “It might not be pretty, but it works.”

Cuban was asked about his supervisor at the Dairy Queen - and Cuban imagined his supervisor in another job.

“I'd love to send Parrish up to the NBA to have him give them a lesson in exactly how to communicate,” Cuban said. “When anybody needed to interact with Parrish, he was right there to answer the questions. That's the way you run a business. If Parrish just went up there and just took a look, we'd be a lot better off.”

All of this occurred back in 2002, but Cuban has continued to look at other jobs. For example, he'd like to be Donald Trump's hairstylist:

Donald, you shave your head, $1 million to any charity you want.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Who should run a meeting?

Page 19 of the November/December issue of Sales and Marketing Management offers this tip:

The most senior person in attendance definitely should not run a work session. As a matter of fact, if there is more than one person in the room who knows how to facilitate, the task should go to the most junior. This frees up the greatest number of senior personnel to contribute to content.

Advice for American Apparel - don't do a bonehead move toward the end of the year

I'm not a big moviegoer, but even I realize that movies operate according to a particular timetable. There are movies that are suitable for summer, movies that are suitable for Halloween, and movies that are trying to get an Oscar nomination. The movies that fall in tha latter category tend to be released toward the end of the year, so that they are fresh in the minds of Oscar voters.

Let's see if you can guess what kind of movie this is.

"Al Gore and Newt Gingrich reunite in this buddy movie. They say that they're going to Florida to tour NASA facilities, but they're really planning one wild weekend!"

What kind of movie is this?

Is this option A, a summer blockbuster?

Is this option B, a Halloween thriller?

Is this option C, an Oscar-worthy performance?

Of course not. This is option D, the movie that is released in March because something has to be released at that time.

What does all of this have to do with American Apparel's misfired Hurricane Sandy sale, which I discussed back in October? Plenty.

You see, normally these things are big tempests in a teapot - something that everyone talks about for a few days until everyone completely forgets about it.

But American Apparel, in a neat little twist of timing, committed its blunder toward the end of the year.

And now, as the year ends, everyone is getting ready to assemble their end of year lists.

Guess what is making the lists from orgnaizations such as Business Insider (the 9th biggest PR disaster) and Yahoo (social media disaster number 6)?

You guessed it.

And the bleeding edge has a golden rule

As long as I'm on this "golden rule" kick, let's mention one more:

[Wii U users have] forgotten one of the golden rules of consumer technology: early adopters get screwed. Recent examples include iPhone 5 screen defects, Windows Phone 8 randomly rebooting and broken Surface keyboard cases.

Companies love early adopters because they get excited about product launches and produce big initial sales numbers to quote, but they don’t extend extra care to those who turn out first. In fact, you’re much more likely to find yourself holding a device built by workers still getting to grips with the manufacturing process and running software with significant bugs that haven’t yet been discovered.

More here, including a discussion of Vodafone's costs for the "privilege" of leasing a new iPhone or Android phone.