Friday, March 30, 2012

Why do we have so little news coverage?

On Thursday evening, I published a post in my tymshft blog about Narrative Science, a company that is capable of "writing" news articles based upon data that is input.

After I wrote my post, I kept on reading, and ran across this April 2010 article from BusinessWeek. Ignore the provocative title for the moment (my answer to the question is "yes"), and consider this nugget buried in the article.

[Narrative Science partner Kristian] Hammond says the company is starting with athletics because only about 1% of U.S. sporting events are covered by reporters.

Take a moment and think about the ramifications of this.

We often think that we are drowning in all the news that we get from TV and from radio and from our feeds and from everywhere else - but the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of things that are NOT covered.

Take my two recent posts about Mark R. Walter. This is a guy who is the Chief Executive Officer of Guggenheim Capital, LLC - and we hardly know anything about him. (Of course, I'll grant that to learn more about him, a real journalist will have to knock on his door and get an interview.)

I'll cite another example. I can't talk about many of the proposals which I write. Why not? Because the customer RFPs often have clauses that prevent the winning bidder from discussing the win without customer approval. Yet it's certainly newsworthy - well, at least to a few of us - when MorphoTrak has a winning proposal, or when another company does. But it's hard to find that information.

Now Mark Walter and the various biometric vendors have reasons for not publicizing this news. But I'm sure that there are many organizations that would love to have news articles written about them. And perhaps they publish their minutes on the web, where some data aggregator could grab them and put them in a readable format. But they don't.

I'll throw out one other example, and this one's personal so bear with me. For the last several years, and I have been compiling a list of the tracks to which I have been listening. Now perhaps this is not newsworthy (how many times did John listen to that song in a row?), but perhaps it could be formed into a story. tries to do this:

My Top 3 #lastfm Artists: Orion Rigel Dommisse (57), Zero 7 (46) & Client (32)

But imagine if some type of software could make this into a story:

John Bredehoft listened to the Orion Rigel Dommisse song "Skinwalkers" over 50 times last week, but also took the time to listen to some old favorites from Zero 7 and Client.

Now imagine if my data were combined with other data:

After hearing the Orion Rigel Dommisse song "Skinwalkers" on, John Bredehoft bought the song from Amazon and listened to it another fifty times.

Pete Charvat, who lived with Bredehoft in college in 1981, reported, "Yeah, the guy likes to listen to songs over and over."

Some would argue that such articles are not "newsworthy." But they'd be newsworthy to some people, wouldn't they?

And if you could have a service that could take raw data and produce articles of interest to you, wouldn't it be worth it?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today's splay - Disqus profiles don't please skippythedog

Earlier this month, there was an article about the filing of bigamy charges in the state of Washington. The article allowed for comments - Disqus comments.

One such comment was left by pgroup, who left a comment via Disqus:

Interesting. I wonder how many of the commenters think this is a good priority for the prosecutor's resources. Must be that violent crime and drug peddling have all been substantially reduced so that there's available room in the budget for this type of prosecution.

Who is the victim here, anyway?

I left a reply, and since I am a Disqus user, my reply contained information from my Disqus profile. Here's my reply comment:

While I understand the sentiment, district attorneys and police officers are charged with upholding the entire law. If - I mean when - they start selecting which laws they are going to enforce and which laws they are going to ignore, then we run into wonderful problems of "selective prosecution."

Apparently my comment rubbed someone named "skippythedog" the wrong way. Well, perhaps it wasn't my comment - it was probably my profile.

As you can see, skippythedog left this reply:

Hey's Super Troll !............what the hell is a "vertical blog" anyway? I guess that's a way of saying, no one will actually pay me for anything I write so I fulfill my fantasy of being a journalist by splaying my name and drivel all over the internet. (sorry for my personal attack but this guy, from California, is just a bit too far over the top.)

Interestingly enough, while skippythedog has a Disqus profile, he or she hasn't filled it out. However, it appears that skippy is a local, since skippy only comments at the News-Tribune. So perhaps it was my state, rather than my profile, that motivated skippy's self-described "attack."

Based upon that, what else could I do? I ended up liking the comment. We danged alfalfa-eaters need to stay out of the Pacific Northwest.

Note to Daniel Ha - you may want to lay low if you're pitching something in Seattle.

P.S. Alan O'Neill entered a not guilty plea.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Who is prospective Dodgers controlling partner Mark R. Walter?

In an earlier post, I noted that while people in the media and sports talk radio callers are concentrating on Magic Johnson's role in the new prospective Dodgers ownership group, in reality the person who will call the shots will be Mark Walter.

Who is Mark Walter? Here is what Guggenheim Partners' website says:

Mark R. Walter Chief Executive Officer
Mr. Walter is Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board and Executive Committee of Guggenheim Capital, LLC. Mr. Walter is also one of the founders of the Liberty Hampshire Company, LLC. Mr. Walter serves as a trustee or director of several organizations including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Security Benefit Corporation. Mr. Walter grew up in Iowa and received a B.S. from Creighton University and a J.D. from Northwestern University.

It also includes this quote:

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

~CEO Mark Walter

Good news for a baseball fan.

Also see this article from Chicago's NBC television station, which emphasizes Walters' Chicago presence.

I was unable to find Walters' personal net worth, but as of 2008, Magic Johnson's net worth was estimated at $800 million, including his then-minority stake in the Los Angeles Lakers.

Money talks - Why Mark Walter owns the Dodgers (and why Garvey - and Magic - don't)

Sports talk radio in Los Angeles is buzzing this morning. The local ESPN outlet has ditched its national programming and has local hosts devoting themselves to one story:

A group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record $2 billion.

Steve Mason and the other hosts are taking calls, and most of the calls are praising Magic Johnson - former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star, successful Los Angeles businessman, and the smiling face who will turn the team around. Magic will do this; Magic will do that.

But with all due respect to Mr. Johnson, he isn't the reason that the Dodgers agreed to a sale yesterday.

After all, if you really wanted a public face for the new, post-Frank McCourt Dodgers, why not choose Mister Dodger himself, Steve Garvey?

Yes, some of you may recall that Steve Garvey was part of a group that wanted to buy the Dodgers. And that group also included Orel Hershiser. It sounds like something magical that would appeal to Major League Baseball - Garvey and Hershiser owning the Dodgers. A picture-perfect ending.

But who else was part of that group? As far as I know, the other members of the group were never publicized. And despite the fact that Steve Garvey was the public face of the group, you knew that he wouldn't have the money to buy the Dodgers himself. Garvey is a wonderful front man, but at the end of the day you knew that he wouldn't be controlling the team. And whoever was controlling the "Garvey" group apparently didn't pass muster - Garvey, Hershiser, and the others didn't make it past the first round.

Now to my knowledge, Magic Johnson has never said that he is broke. But you know that he doesn't have two billion spare dollars lying around.

So how did Magic Johnson get enough money to buy the team? He didn't.

However, unlike the Garvey group, we know Magic Johnson's other partners, including the one that DOES have the money. And the ESPN article mentioned Moneybags also, although it was buried in the fourth paragraph:

Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner.

In any financial transaction, you have to ask who has the money. That's going to give you an indication of how the Dodgers will be run in the coming years. While a lot of people will have input into Dodgers decisions, there is only one person who has final authority. And that person isn't Magic Johnson or Stan Kasten.

And there's some talk about this deal being tripped up. But if it is tripped up, it will be for reasons that have nothing to do with Johnson or Kasten.

The first reason may be that procedures were bypassed. Originally the Dodgers were supposed to go up for auction between three finalists. However, reports indicate that Mark Walter came in and offered $2 billion up front. McCourt reportedly took the deal, since it was several hundred thousand dollars above what had been offered previously. Will Major League Baseball contest the deal and insist that the Dodgers proceed with the original auction plan?

The second reason that this deal may be waylaid is because of the sources of the money.

There was some concern among MLB officials about the financing of the Walter bid because some of the money was coming from insurance companies that are owned by Guggenheim. A person familiar with the baseball owners' teleconference Tuesday said several team owners voiced that during the call. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because MLB did not make any announcements.

"The problem there is a fundamental problem as you go into an auction, and that is the absolute reliance on other people's money," Ganis said. "It means a lot of regulators. It means either shareholders or, depending on which insurance companies it's coming from, the insured themselves."

So while sports talk callers prattle on about how Magic Johnson wants to win and how Stan Kasten has extensive baseball experience, the REAL decision-makers are looking at a completely different set of issues. Bear in mind that when Frank McCourt made his public statement regarding his decision to sell, Johnson and Kasten weren't even mentioned:

"This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community," McCourt said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Lakers connection doesn't matter.

The Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals connections don't matter.

The Guggenheim connection - THAT'S what matters.


Where will you work next year? United Methodist pastors will find out shortly.

Working people find out about their NEXT job in a variety of ways. Perhaps they are contractors, and they negotiate their next contracts with clients. Perhaps they're unemployed, and they're waiting for job offers. Perhaps they're in the military, and they'll find out when they need to find out.

United Methodist pastors are closest to this latter category, and they participate in an interesting ritual to find out about their next assignments.

Here's part of what the United Methodist Church says about pastoral appointments:

Every local church needs a pastor. The United Methodist Church has a unique way of matching pastors and congregations. Rather than local churches hiring and firing their own pastors-as in some denominations-United Methodist bishops appoint pastors to serve in local churches and other ministry settings.

One advantage to this process is that a local church never has to go without a pastor. Likewise, a pastor (specifically, a full member of an annual conference in good standing) never goes without a setting for ministry. The primary goal of the appointment system is to match the gifts and graces of a particular pastor to the ministry needs of a particular congregation at a particular time.

This itinerant system, where pastors move from one appointment to another, dates back to American frontier days when circuit riding preachers traveled on horseback from town to town. At that time, bishops matched preachers to circuits four times a year. Now bishops typically fix appointments once a year....

Appointments are formally 'fixed' at the regular session of annual conference and they take effect on a designated Sunday, usually in early summer.

Once I got to see how this functioned in practice. Years and years ago, I was a lay delegate to our local Annual Conference here in southern California. The conference took place over several days, and considered all sorts of resolutions and had all sorts of presentations. (Yes, church organizations have bureaucratic ways, just like government and business organizations.)

Finally, we reached the last day of the Annual Conference, and the last item on the agenda. This consisted of our local bishop, talking. Actually, the bishop was reading from a list. As he prepared to read from the list, the pastors were all waiting around, ears perked up.

You see, in the United Methodist system, the pastor has some input into where he or she is assigned, and the individual congregation has some input, and there are others with input, but the Bishop has the final responsibility for determining where the pastors will be appointed. Perhaps the pastors have been told something or another, but nothing is official until the appointments are fixed...and no one knows how the appointments were fixed until the Bishop actually reads the list.

So, at least in the Annual Conference that I attended, each pastor made sure NOT to leave until he heard his or her name called, and knew with a certainty about his or her next appointment.

At this particular Annual Conference, the two pastors for my congregation were again appointed to my congregation. But sometimes there are changes:

While I myself am not moving, I do feel like my life is in a bit of an upheaval. One of my mentors is retiring and taking on a new position in the life of the annual conference (grouping of local churches). Another mentor is being fill the position of the mentor that is my home church. It is a time of transition and change for many people. It's positive change, but change just the same.

Some people don't consider it a positive change. After all, you can't please everyone, and I know of at least one person (not me or a member of my family) who left the United Methodist Church because of the consequences of the pastoral appointment system.

But I firmly believe that no human-run system is perfect, and you can have problems when a congregation calls a pastor, or when a pastor starts his or her own congregation, or whatever. While certain organizational systems may result in certain job-hiring actions, at the end of the day they all choose from similar pools of people.

And those people have to end up somewhere.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

(empo-sadr) Saharawi bottle business

One of the ironies in the Saharawi situation is that most of the people who believe that they are part of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic actually live outside the country, in refugee camps in Algeria. And normally refugee camps are not the subject of discussion in a business blog.

But this is an exception:

French designer Florie Salnot's Plastic Bottle Project is different. The designs are stunning and the production technique is magical! Using what is readily available at the refugee camp: plastic bottles, hot sand, simple hand tools and a long tradition of craft, the Saharawi refugees in Western Sahara now generate an income which reduces their dependency on humanitarian aid.

More here, including pictures.

Also see what Florie Salnot has written:

The Saharawi refugees are located in one of the most hostile and barren deserts of the world, in the remote south-western corner of Algeria, near the town of Tindouf. In these camps, there is virtually no work and resources. The Saharawis are dependent on precarious aid flows (food and other essential aid for survival).

For more than 35 years, they have been attempting to perpetuate a distinctive Saharawi society. However, under these extreme conditions, it is quite difficult. The craft tradition for instance is almost not practiced anymore. It is challenged by the availability of materials.

Until plastic bottles came to the rescue.

(empo-sadr) "Recognizing" the perspectives of others

Diplomatic language can be funny.

In 1979, the United States' Ambassador to the United Nations was Andrew Young. As part of a series of negotiations regarding the Middle East, Ambassador Young needed to discuss something with Zehdi Terzi, the Palestine Liberation Organization's "observer" at the UN.

[Ambassador Young] met Terzi "accidentally on purpose" at a lunch at the Kuwaiti Ambassador's residence in 1979. Young claims that the State Department and the Israeli foreign ministry both knew in advance about the meeting, but, once it was leaked, President Jimmy Carter fired him.

Why was the lunch date so disastrous? Because, in the language of diplomats, the United States did not "recognize" the Palestine Liberation Organization. Which in a way is kind of odd, since this figure was eminently recognizable.

[Picture source, license]

But while we in the United States did not "recognize" this organization, a number of people do. And this continues today. Most of the world can travel to Cuba any time they desire; I, as a citizen of the United States, am restricted in my travel there. A couple of my friends recently returned from a trip to North Korea - something I could never contemplate doing. When I'm at work, there are particular U.S. laws that I have to follow - not only when dealing with people from North Korea and Cuba, but also when dealing with people from allied countries such as France.

And it's not the case that the United States is a stick in the mud and the rest of the world is free and easy. For example, back on April 15, 2011, the British newspaper The Sun was banned from mentioning the name of Ryan Giggs. And in the same way that I am restricted from visiting Cuba, there are people from many countries who are restricted from visiting Israel.

And just to prove the point, I'm going to try something. On occasion, I've tried to increase the readership of this blog from certain sections of the world. Now, my goal is to increase my readership from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Even though my country, the United States of America, does not recognize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Even though I'm not sure if my analytics provider recognizes the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

And even though the Internet TINC does not recognize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. (TINC is defined in Uncyclopedia.)

Say it how you here it

I will start this by saying that I have committed my share of mistakes. My favorite was the time that I used the word "qualtiy" the release notes for the latest version of my employer's process suite.

Therefore, I'm not linking to the source for this particular mistake:

...encouraging designers to think of content as water, very applicable to the tenants of responsive web design...

The writer should not have used "tenants," but instead should have used "tenets."

I suspect that these errors (and I've committed them myself) happen when we are writing a post in our head and listening to the voices in our head...and perhaps we hear the voice slightly incorrectly. As a result, we spell the word incorrectly.

Spell the word incorrectly? As I noted in a post in my tymshft blog, correct spelling is a convention that has gone in and out of fashion. We have six surviving instances of William Shakespeare's signature, and "Shakespeare" is spelled differently in each one. Recently, variant spellings such as "l8r" have come into vogue.

And while copy editors will not agree, perhaps correct spelling is not as essential as once thought. Consider that I was still able to understand what was being said in the text that I quoted above. And you've probably seen the instances of text that are completely misspelled, but still understandable.

In the business world, your mileage may vary. (I would have said YMMV, but there are probably people who read my blog who have never heard of that acronym.) Some business environments consider correct spelling essential, while sum jest codent care les. It's important to know the rules of your business environment, however. In the same way that you should refrain from wearing your biker pants to most law firm interviews, you probably shouldn't send an "Ima kewl d00d" cover letter to an employer that you know nothing about.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Does Ben Parr's first "startup sin" also apply to mature businesses?

Ben Parr recently wrote his seven startup sins to avoid. The first sin was as follows:

Losing focus: If you're like the typical entrepreneur, you probably have hundreds of new ideas for your startup. But you must resist the urge to build lots of features, rather than focusing on the few that will actually take your product forward.

It seems logical that a scattershot startup will not get anything done, while a startup that concentrates on one idea has a better chance of attracting attention.

But does this also apply beyond startups, to mature companies?

Now I'm not suggesting that a mature company should only be in one business. But a mature company still needs some sort of focus. Imagine that you run a company named after a fruit, and that your company sells desktop computers, laptop computers, tablet devices, phones, music devices, and some other stuff. You're not going to have success if you offer hundreds of different types of computers, hundreds of tablets, and the like.

Why won't that "extensive market coverage" be successful? Let Ben Parr tell you:

Giving users many choices and features may seem like a good idea, but it just confuses them until they abandon a product in frustration. Simplicity and focus are the keys to building a great company.

And that's true regardless of the company size.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vodka, rape, trademarks, and export licenses are no joke (Belvedere Vodka)

This weekend's tempest in a teapot comes to us courtesy of the advertising agency who has the Belvedere Vodka account. Perhaps you heard that Belvedere recently posted an online ad with a smiling man grabbing a horrified woman from, um, behind. The caption? "Belvedere always goes down smoothly."

Most of us simply shook our heads at the boneheadedness of the advertising agency, and of Belvedere.

But an organization called RINJ (Rape Is No Joke) had a somewhat stronger response. Excerpts from RINJ's press release: Press Release - Saturday, March 24, 2012 - Toronto Canada - RINJ Campaign has announced an international boycott of Belvedere Vodka following that company's online publication and global dissemination of content that appears to recommend Belvedere Vodka's male customers drink to excess or at least to the point they begin to perform unlawful acts such as forcible confinement; sexual assault; forced fellatio; rape; aggravated assault; abuse of women; and violent bullying while drinking....

Belevedere Vodka's ad brand promotes a rape culture which is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. This advertisement of Belvedere encourages a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from disgusting sexual remarks to sexual touching, forcible confinement, terrorizing women, to rape itself.

Belvedere seems to advance that violence be seen as sexy and sexuality as violent and further wants to promote a concept that alcohol drinking favourably leads to sexual assault and rape.

RINJ's recommended punishment?

"Entities and organizations seeking to expand that rape culture to include all the world must be destroyed.

"Inasmuch as communities have authorized the licensing and existence of liquor manufacturers such as Belevedere, those communities can and must take those licenses away.

""RINJ urges every nation to ban the sale of Belvedere Vodka and to rescind any and all trade marks, business licenses, export licenses and further urges that any and all food/drug/liquor substance/content approvals be withdrawn forthwith.

"RINJ further urges a global and indefinite boycott of Belvedere Vodka."

Now the likelihood of any government banning the sale of Belvedere Vodka or voiding its trademarks because of an online ad is highly unlikely. But perhaps RINJ is miffed because of something else that Belvedere did:

My name is Charles Gibb and I am the President of Belvedere Vodka. I would like to personally apologize for the offensive post that recently appeared on our Facebook page.

It should never have happened. I am currently investigating the matter to determine how this happened and to be sure it never does so again. The content is contrary to our values and we deeply regret this lapse.

As an expression of our regret over this matter we have made a donation to RAINN (America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.)

I don't know if RAINN and RINJ are on speaking terms, but based upon my organizational experience, it could be very likely that RINJ could be miffed that RAINN got money and they didn't.

Speaking of rain, that reminds one of an older Belvedere Vodka commercial.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Is your "bonus" a "bounty"?

Those who follow the New Orleans Saints football team know that they're going to have a tough season, courtesy a decision by the NFL Commissioner.

The NFL suspended New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams Wednesday for their roles in a bounty system that provided the team’s players payments for hits that injured opponents.

Williams was suspended indefinitely. Payton was suspended for one year, and Loomis was suspended for eight games, a person with knowledge of the measures said.

The rationale for the suspensions was explained by Commissioner Goodell:

“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” Goodell added. “When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game.”

So in effect, you can hit the opposing player, but you can't purposely try to knock the opposing player out of the game.

If that's the standard, then consider this:

The Blue Company and the Green Company are try to get the Brown contract. Both the Blue Company and the Green Company have determined that this is a "must win," and their account managers are instructed accordingly. If you win, you will be rewarded. If you lose, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

So both companies go after the Brown contract, and the Blue Company wins. (Why does the Blue Company win? Because I'm wearing a blue shirt today.)

The Blue Company account manager gets a huge bonus. The Green Company account manager gets to go home early.

"But that's different," you say. "The Green Company account manager wasn't injured for life by a 300 pound monster rushing at him."

Well, consider this:

A worker who was fired by Palm Bay (Fla.) Hospital went back to bid his former co-workers goodbye, then shot himself to death....

Or this:

A fired employee returned to his former workplace with a gun and killed a female worker and severely wounded her brother before taking his own life, police said.

These are just two of many examples where someone was taken off the field - possibly because of the actions of someone else - and was fatally injured as a result.

Let's face it, many competitive endeavors - sports, proposals, etc. - are zero-sum games. We all want to win. But someone wins, someone loses.

So what is the line between rewarding winning behavior and engaging in actions that harm the losers?

I had a really good post for today, but you'll have to wait for it

Sometimes a blogger comes up with a really great post, but then realizes that the post can't be shared just yet.

For example, I could write a post that goes something like this:

I'm traveling out of the country and I took my attack dog with me, so my apartment is wide open. Have at it!

Or I could write a post that goes something like this:

Wow, this RFP that I just received from the Department of the Interior is a wonderful RFP! I'm working on my response to requirement 4.121 right now, and I'm probably going to talk about the brand new product that we're about to release in a month.

Or I could write this is a post:

I was talking with my friend Bert, whose wife is about to have a baby although they haven't told family yet.

Note - the examples above are not true. I have not worked with the U.S. Department of the Interior in thirty years.

So anyway, I was working on a post that I was going to publish today, and then I realized that a single word in the post could provide a small data point of information - and that small data point could be observed by others, and could be used to gain valuable information.

So while I've written the post, I won't be publishing it today.

You'll see it later.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

(empo-fioy) Startup supporter - guess the country!

If the hashtag didn't give it away, consider that one of the organization's incubators is called the Startup Sauna:

During the Startup Sauna, the selected teams work intensively to develop their business model, technology & its applications, and early market entry. The teams graduating will be prepared to seek for initial investments and first customers. Startups will go through blood, sweat and tears to become the next success story.

The sponsoring organization is Aaltoes:

Aalto Entrepreneurship Society is an independent, privately funded student and post-graduate led community initiative. We encourage high-tech, high-growth, scalable entrepreneurship, providing a tight startup community in Northern Europe. Founded in 2009, Aaltoes believes in grassroots action, self-initiative and lean practices.

The name "Aalto" comes from Aalto University, and since many of the business courses are taught in English (rather than Finnish), the organization is clearly aware of the meaning of the English word "toes." Presumably they help people dip their toes into the waters of the startup world.

And Aaltoes presumably supplies the sausages that startups need to get started.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Anecdotal evidence upon advertising effectiveness

I am going to make a blanket observation that you can't make blanket observations about the effectiveness of online advertising.

There are some who will say that Facebook or Google advertising is worthwhile, while others will say that it is not.

The truth? It depends.

Take this one story, which was offered as a comment to a SoshiTech post. Excerpt:

If were spending 250$/month for ads and each lead is a minimum of $1500 conversion, if 4/5 leads failed then even one is already making profit!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lots of job interviews

What would you call it if Human Resources (HR) scheduled 68 job interviews to take place in the course of a week, and HR was charged to eliminate 52 of the candidates from consideration by the end of the week?

You would call it madness.

P.S. How many of you had Duke in your brackets? Me too.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The power of understatement

Some people are known by bombast. Once I saw Cal Worthington on the TODAY show (he was being interviewed as an automotive industry expert), and I almost didn't recognize him because he wasn't yelling and his dog Spot wasn't with him.

Others are known by a more quiet tone.

Others are known by both. While Monty Python is probably best remembered for its loud sketches ("THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!"), one of my personal favorites is the understated "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" sketch. Similarly, the Police adopted a somewhat quieter tone with their song "Walking on the Moon.". (Did you know that Sting played bass?)

This is also true in the business world. While Apple may be best known for its "1984" commercial, there are those who remember it for its earlier newspaper ad welcoming IBM to the personal computer business.

(A note to my younger readers: in the late 20th century, there were companies that were similar to the Huffington Post; however, instead of distributing data via apps or a web browser window, these companies actually printed the data on large sheets of paper. These sheets of paper, known as "newspapers," used to be very popular. And David Allen and Liset Márquez will probably never forgive me for this paragraph.)

Now the "Welcome, IBM. Seriously." had certainly had its share of bombast - after all, it was a full page ad. But at the same time, the ad was relatively simple - just some text. (This was before Steve Jobs imposed his calligraphic learning on the computer universe.)

But Seth Stevenson maintains that this understatement can go too far.

The most striking example is a commercial for the asthma medication Symbicort. As our spokeswoman prances around singing Symbicort's praises, she is almost completely obscured by shadows. We strain to make out her features even in the tight close-ups on her face. We're left wondering whether this woman is a wanted criminal or has some sort of jarring scar the director wished to hide....

In the Symbicort spot, the product—I'm not even sure what form it takes; a pill? an inhalant?—is never seen. The only clear, well-lit image in the ad is of icky bronchial tissue. I keep waiting for the woman to emerge into sunlight at the close of the ad, symbolizing the newfound happiness Symbicort has brought her. But it never happens. And I'm left wondering: Why would asthma sufferers aspire to an underilluminated lifestyle?

Of course, our sensibilities demand that some products be obscured from view. You're not going to see bombastic ads for any womens' product "with wings," for example.

Understatement doesn't always work, and it shouldn't always be used. But there are times when understatement is a good thing.


Friday, March 16, 2012

When Clients from Hell isn't in a joking mood

Clients from Hell is usually a lighthearted blog, but there are certain things that Clients from Hell takes seriously.

And based upon many of the entries in the blog (such as one that I previously discussed), it's probably no surprise that a serious issue at Clients from Hell is the nonpayment of freelancers by clients:

Freelancing isn’t free. When a client doesn’t pay, copious amounts of time and money are needed to chase that paycheck. Let’s change that.

The Freelancer Payment Protection Act – which would legally protect freelancers from non-paying clients – needs your help.

Over 1,000 freelancers are already a part the campaign. The bill recently pushed through the New York State Assembly and secured key Republican and Democratic sponsors along the way.

It is hoped that the New York legislation, if passed, will be a model for other states.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Trade Deadline Madness - what rightsizing does to your other employees

[CORRECTION: @teamkb24 is "the Kobe Bryant fans™ Official Fanpage." According to Bryant, he does not have a Twitter account.]

Before I continue, let me just say that I DON'T subscribe to the theory that everything good about the Lakers is performed by Mitch Kupchak, and everything bad about the Lakers is performed by Jim Buss.

And, let me also say that the Lakers' trade of Derek Fisher (and Luke Walton) can be a potential positive. A sports team is not charged to make people feel happy - a sports team is charged with winning games. And if the Lakers can win more games without Derek Fisher than they can with him, then Fisher should be moved.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, there are morale issues associated with any trade. I'm sure that Kobe Bryant [whoops, a fan of Kobe Bryant] knew exactly what he was doing when he tweeted this:

If someone will make me shed a tear, it's the Lakers. Derek Fisher, my man.

This is an appropriate time to revisit a December 2011 post on NBA Grapevine:

Stephen A. Smith is known for his brash opinions, but his recent prediction that Kobe Bryant will demand a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers is going to make him look like a fool....

Kobe has undoubtedly been dealing with a lot lately, being that he’s reportedly getting a divorce and he was already upset about Lamar Odom being traded.

I just can’t see the guy leaving L.A. though.

He’s won five championships with this franchise, and they’ve done everything they could to appease him in the past.

As of right now, they have regressed, but it won’t stay that way for long. I have a hard time believing that a franchise like the Lakers won’t be able to pull off a move that could bring in another big-time star to play with Bryant.

That post was written before Kobe spoke out in support of Pau Gasol, and of course was written before Derek Fisher left the Lakers.

Stephen A. Smith's Los Angeles radio show will presumably be pre-empted tonight for college basketball, but I'm sure that he's going to explode when he's next on the air.

March Happiness - financial benefits to universities from an NCAA tournament run

Academic weenies such as myself run around decrying educational institutions who allow their athletic departments to run the show, ignoring university/college presidents and those to whom they supposedly report.

But perhaps there's a method to, madness, if this article is to be believed. Granted, author Kristi Dosh is writing for ESPN, who certainly has a bias in the matter, but it's something to be considered.

Butler’s 2010 run to the national title game resulted in $639.3 million in publicity value, including $100 million from the CBS broadcast of the national title game. Last year’s appearance was valued at more than $512 million. Neither calculation included the publicity value of radio broadcasts or talk shows, but instead focused on television, print and online news coverage.

OK, those are admittedly vapory numbers. But what about this?

The exposure cascades off-court, as experts point to a positive correlation between athletic performance and application rates. They call it the “Flutie effect” after quarterback Doug Flutie, who was credited with a 30 percent increase in applications at Boston College the year after his Heisman Trophy win.

A 2009 study by brothers and economics professors Jaren and Devin Pope showed that just making it into the men’s NCAA tournament produces a 1 percent increase in applications the following year. Each round a team advances increases the percentage: 3 percent for Sweet 16 teams, 4 to 5 percent for Final Four teams and 7 to 8 percent for the winner.

The only way to achieve similar application increases would be to increase financial aid or reduce tuition by 2 to 24 percent, the study said.

Now you have to run a return on investment study on the numbers - how much does it actually COST to develop a basketball team that advances in the NCAA tournament? But since this is a basketball team, rather than a football team, the costs probably aren't all that great.

And, for small public schools who see an influx of out-of-state students, the payouts can be impressive:

The impact of admitting more out-of-state students can be profound. For example, George Mason’s in-state tuition rate is $9,066 per year, while out-of-state tuition is nearly three times as much at $26,544.

Perhaps this is a way for California to solve its budget crisis - have UCLA, Berkeley, and other public schools spend the money to attract the talent to make it to the Final Four.

P.S. Speaking of Dosh - if you want to look at the business aspect of sports, don't read this blog - read her site, The Business of College Sports.

From each according to his ability, to each according to what he can get

A CNN blog recently printed an interesting fact:

For more perspective on their wealth, compare [China's National People's Congress'] six dozen richest members to U.S. politicians. This group earned more than the net worth of the six hundred top politicians and lawmakers of the United States.

That includes President Barack Obama, his Cabinet, the 535 members of Congress, along with nine members of the Supreme Court. Their average declared net worth in 2010 was just $4.8 billion - a pittance compared to the NPC’s $90 billion

This is especially remarkable because Communism was supposed to reduce the disparity of wealth, and China remains (in a political sense) a Communist country.

There are two possible explanations.

First, China's market economy is a relatively new one. Disparities in wealth can be expected when a few people figure out a capitalist economy before everyone else does. Presumably these income disparities will decrease over time.

Second, China and the United States have different ideas on government service. In China, government service is a noble calling. In the United States, most people - myself included - would rather be a businessperson than a politician. Perhaps we can get successful businesspeople to serve on advisory boards, but there are very few CEOs and company chairs who will actually run for political office. Can you imagine Bill Gates seeking the Congressional seat that his former employee Suzan DelBene (whom I've mentioned before) is seeking? No way - for Gates, joining the government would be a significant loss of power.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

(empo-utoobd) On planning for viral videos


Marketers often add viral videos to marketing plans as if “viral” is as predictable as the circulation in a coupon drop or the number of samples in a sampling event. What marketers forget is that no one can create a viral video. We can only create quality content that may or may not go viral.

Be sure to read the rest of Tom Fishburne's post to see how Orabrush got 46 million YouTube videos, even though you really can't make a viral video about a tongue scraper.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dell, SonicWALL, and the end of the pure play

Remember when orange juice companies made orange juice, and consumer computer companies made computers?

I've talked ad nauseum about how Oracle has increased its stack so that it now offers everything from hardware to vertical enterprise applications. But Oracle isn't the only company that has ventured beyond its original business.

Eric Beehler alerted his Google+ circles to a TNW piece that references a Dell press release about its intent to acquire SonicWALL. I'm going to skip all the fake quotes and go right to the Special Note:

Special Note:

Statements that relate to future results and events are forward-looking statements based on Dell's current expectations. Actual results and events in future periods may differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements because of a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors. Risks, uncertainties and assumptions include the possibility that projected benefits may not materialize as expected; that the transaction may not be timely completed, if at all; that Dell is unable to successfully implement the plans, strategies and objectives of management for future operations, including the execution of integration strategies; and other risks that are described in Dell’s Securities and Exchange Commission reports. Dell undertakes no obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

That having been said, I'm not aware of any reason why this deal won't go through. There have certainly been enough of these types of deals that HAVE gone through.

Now I'll be the first to admit that these things go in cycles, but we're clearly in the cycle in which successful companies consist of a variety of products.

(DISCLOSURE: My employer is active in industries as diverse as automated fingerprint identification systems and aircraft engines, and my former employer was, at the time, involved in industries ranging from police radios to mobile phones to set-top boxes.)

How many companies are pure plays these days?

And when will Twitter be acquired by, or make an acquisition of, an orange juice maker?

Even the most pedestrian products come in a variety of styles

Whenever someone talks about innovation, they often talk about products whose names begin with the letter "i." (I wrote about this in 2010. Whatever happened to the iSlate, anyway?)

But innovation can be found well outside of the bounds of SXSW.

For example, this company offers a product that is pre-torn, and therefore does not have to be torn by a person. Ordinarily this is not a concern, but offering a pre-torn product ensures that the person does not have to work.

For this reason, Shabbos Toilet Paper is available for purchase.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Organist for hire at Association of Proposal Management Professionals events

I do not directly link to Facebook comments (there are probably still a few hundred million Facebook users who assume their conversations are private), but I will reproduce something from one of my comments.

In something I posted on Thursday evening, I said:

Tonight (Thursday) I didn't get home until after 8:00 pm because of a proposal.

One of my co-workers (who obviously knows what I do for a living) then said:

A proposal? Did she say yes? Oh, not that kind of proposal....

To which I replied:

Although we still hope that the recipient of the proposal will say "yes." :)

There certainly are some things in common between marriage proposals and business proposals. Alex Lickerman has discussed this:

Marriage is like a business but not all businesses are created equal. A marriage is more like a Partnership than an LLC, a partnership whose purpose is the management of a shared life. Partnerships are formed as a result of two companies merging. Mergers are always performed to improve the profitability of the two companies involved. Profitability is defined as net gain. Good partnerships result from a careful choosing of partners that have a shared vision for a company, complementary skills, and similar long-term goals. How each partnership defines these parameters will vary depending on the type of partnership in question and in general defines your partnership’s business plan....

However, my business proposals usually don't involve corporate mergers. Are there parallels between the types of proposals that I write and the proposals that Larry King has delivered several times? Let's look at something Michael M. Thomas said:

She's a woman. You're not. You'd probably be ok with something like a business proposal. Something like "Honey, I love you, you love me. Let's make this permanent. Please accept this ring as a symbol of my sincerity." While she would probably say yes, that's probably not what she wants.

Not only is that a crappy marriage proposal...that's also a crappy business proposal. How would one of my account managers or program managers react if I wrote a proposal letter like this:

March 12, 2012

Public County Sheriff's Office
Anywhere, USA

Attn: Ms. Natalie Procurement

Dear Ms. Procurement:

We love providing an automated fingerprint identification system to you.

You love using our automated fingerprint identification system.

Let's continue the relationship by having you buy a new system from us.

Please accept this latent workstation as a token of our sincerity.

I suspect that if I submitted such a proposal letter for approval, the next proposal I write would be a "Please hire me at your company because I'm unemployed" proposal.

In truth, both business proposals and marriage proposals have to offer mutual benefits to both parties in order to be successful.

For example, let's take look at the woman who married a man because the man owned a rocking chair. Similarly, that man wanted to marry the woman because she had a purse in which the man could throw things. Over twenty years later the man has long since gotten rid of the rocking chair - and the woman has been through many purses - but the two are still married.

(At least as long as the man doesn't do a bonehead move that endangers his job.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Would you use a content scraper such as the Cascade Team as your real estate broker?

As you may know, I recently started a new blog called tymshft. (It's now on its own domain, by the way -

On Thursday, March 8, I wrote, timely post on that blog entitled Benjamin Franklin’s Daylight Saving Time joke is taken seriously.

Imagine my surprise to find this post on the Cascade Team's blog. This March 11 post is entitled "Benjamin Franklin’s Daylight Saving Time joke is taken seriously!" (Yes, an entirely different title - note the exclamation mark!) The post begins with these words:

I have written about Daylight Saving Time in the past, and since we’re about to start Daylight Saving Time here in (portions of) the United States, it’s fitting to look at the practice.

The words "in the past" include a link to a post in my Empoprise-BI blog.

Yet the post itself does not include any link to the original post in the tymshft blog, nor any mention of the tymshft blog, nor any mention of myself (John E. Bredehoft a/k/a empoprises) as the original author.

Instead, the post includes the words "By The Cascade Team."

I am not a member of the Cascade Team, by the way.

Who is the Cascade Team? According to its profile:

Broker/Owner for The Cascade Team Real Estate January 2006—present
Full Service Real Estate Brokerage with over 100 agents and 5 offices in WA and CA.

Oddly enough, this post by the Cascade Team includes attribution, but for some reason my post didn't merit attribution.

We'll see how quickly this is corrected.

Friday, March 9, 2012

On the funeral industry (or when you want to rock and roll EVERY night)

Sometimes we refuse to recognize that certain things in life have a business impact. Take funerals. When we're grieving over the loss of a loved one, we don't necessarily think much about the return on investment within the funeral industry. But BusinessWeek wasn't afraid to note an important point:

It's a good time to deal in death. The first baby boomers are entering their mid-60s, and the death rate in the U.S. is expected to rise from 8.1 people per thousand in 2006 to 9.3 in 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

And there are competitors:

Some 44% of funeral home directors, up from 28% in 2006, blame the increasing popularity of cremations and alternative burials for sinking profits, according to consulting firm Citrin Cooperman.

And (at least as of June 2008, when the BusinessWeek article was written) the industry is dominated by small players:

[M]ulti-generational family and private companies [command] 89% of the business. A few major vertical corporations, which control everything from choice in caskets to burial services, and often provide products to small mom-and-pops, make up the rest.

The focus of the BusinessWeek article, however, is on new firms that are introducing new products that probably horrify not only the old established firms, but also a good part of the traditional firms' customer base. One example cited is Eternal Image. BusinessWeek describes its 2006-2008 product line:

In 2006 [Eternal Image] introduced the country's first licensed urn—a twisted bronze spire topped with a cross, licensed from the Vatican Library Collection. Mytych has since signed licensing agreements with the American Kennel Club, Major League Baseball, more than a dozen universities, and most recently, CBS Corp., for the rights to the Star Trek brand. His urns cost about $800, compared with $3,000 for a traditional marble one.

Eternal Image now offers licensed products from KISS, Precious Moments, and the University of Nebraska, among others. Traditionalists will be pleased to know that they will soon offer U.S. military products, as well as Boy Scout products.

Regardless of how I, as a theist, personally feel about some of these products, I cannot deny that these items are extremely important to some people. And if the most important thing in your life is your alma mater or your favorite band, why not remember that after you have passed away?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The substantive cosmetics of corporate takeovers

Let me start with the disclosure. I originally found this post because it mentions 3M's acquisition of Cogent Systems. Both 3M and 3M Cogent are competitors to my employer. Now you know.

The bulk of the post, however, discussed other examples of corporate takeovers, and specifically addressed the question - if you are a member of the Board of Directors for a company that may be acquired, what are your fiduciary duties? Craigh Leonard states some legal guidelines:

When a sale of a company becomes inevitable, the duties of the board change from managing and preserving the corporate enterprise to maximizing the company’s value at a sale for the stockholders’ benefit. And once directors decide to sell their company, they must seek the highest value deal that can be secured for the stockholders regardless of whether the deal is in the best interests of other corporate constituencies such as the corporation’s employees, creditors and suppliers. These duties of a board in a sale of control context are often referred to as “Revlon duties” after the 1986 court case dealing with the takeover of the Revlon cosmetics company.

The post provides an example of what NOT to do:

As part of their duty of care, directors must take an active and direct role in a sale process. The board of the Macmillan publishing house, for example, was found to have breached its oversight duty by allowing Macmillan’s investment bankers to report directly to Macmillan’s CEO despite the fact that the CEO was known to be a participant in one of the two groups bidding to acquire the company. This allowed the CEO’s bidding group to learn what the rival group had bid and to submit a topping bid that may not have been as high as they were willing to go.

More here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Friends FOR Benefits

I ran across a comment to a SoshiTech post that was certainly illuminating. Here's a portion of roadwax's comment:

For some months now, copy writing websites have openly advertised ‘jobs’ aimed at people who wish to earn money by ‘adding friends’ to particular pages on Facebook. The rate in November 2011 were approximately $1 per 5 added or linked profiles or higher.

This could explain some of the unusual friend requests I (and probably you) have been receiving.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's OK to take your iPod into the bathroom. Really.

Jonathan "Jony" Ive did not join Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the garage. He joined Apple decades later, as an emigrant.

The manner of [Ives'] departure for the U.S. is particularly galling to Clive Grinyer....

‘We lost a great talent,’ says Grinyer. ‘We virtually created our own consultancy, Tangerine, just so that we could employ Jony (as Ive prefers to be called). And if I had to put my finger on why and where we lost him it would have to have been one day at Ideal Standard in Hull.

'Tangerine had a consultancy contract with the bathroom-fittings company to design a toilet. I was there when Jony made an excellent presentation to this guy who was wearing a red nose because it was Comic Relief day. This clown then decided to throw his weight around and pulled apart Jony’s design. It was ridiculous. Britain lost Jony Ive then and there.’

So Ive left the bozo and went to work for Steve Jobs.

Several years passed, and this episode occurred.

One morning, a designer sprang into the frog studio. “I know why everyone says the iPod looks clean!” he exclaimed. Ask anyone what’s so appealing about the design of the iPod, and, almost without exception, they answer, “I like it because it looks clean.”...

“So,” the visiting designer said, “as I was sitting on the toilet this morning, I noticed the shiny white porcelain of the bathtub and the reflective chrome of the faucet on the wash basin, and then it hit me! The iPod is ‘clean’ because it references bathroom materials.”

There were a few seconds of silence, followed quickly by laughter. We were laughing because we knew that Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod, came to Apple from a London- based design consultancy where he worked on a lot of lavatory basins.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But at the very least, it’s an example of how anything, no matter how unconnected, can spark new perceptions.

H/T Things do not change, we change for the second story.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

End of a mini-era (my ORACLE Magazine subscription)

Not really a tymshft, so I'm sharing it here instead.

This week, in response to a telephone call, I informed an Oracle representative that I was no longer qualified to receive ORACLE Magazine. I explained that my job change removed me from any decision-making authority regarding my employer's use of the Oracle database for its software products.

I really can't call it an "end of an era" - after all, my direct involvement with Oracle only lasted for about 5-6 years or so.

But it's still kind of sad.

Next slide, please.

Friday, March 2, 2012

On "lessons learned" (from Organizational Communications Inc.)

Lessons Learned aren't worth the paper they're written on UNLESS they are manifested as "Lessons Applied."

More here, including questions you can ask yourself to help ensure that the lessons are actually applied.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Forget about intersections. What about traffic cameras on school buses?

Back in March 2009, I wrote about Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australian company that has a worldwide business installing traffic cameras at intersections to catch people who run red lights. It turns out that a nearby city, Upland California, pulled out its Redflex traffic cameras because of a negative return on investment.

Redflex has continued to develop its technologies, and will introduce two new products in 2012:

Student Guardian™ is a photo enforcement solution designed to make school bus stops safer for children by helping police enforce laws against driving past a stopped school bus.

Halo™ – one of our greatest innovations yet – saves innocent drivers and their passengers by holding cross traffic when it senses a driver is about to run a red light.

More information about Student Guardian is provided in a Traffic Technology Today piece (apparently copied from a press release, the original of which I was unable to locate on Redflex's website).

Redflex Traffic Systems is introducing ‘Student Guardian’, which it hopes will make school bus routes safer for children. Every day in the USA, thousands of motorists break state laws by driving around stopped school buses. The new system provides schoolchildren with an extra layer of protection as they enter and exit the bus, by capturing images and video of violators who put their lives in danger. In 2011, the Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services conducted the first national survey of this dangerous activity. The study monitored stop-arm passing incidents on nearly 112,000 buses in 28 states and found that in just one day, bus drivers recorded more than 76,000 illegal passes, which equates to more than 13 million illegal maneuvers nationally in a typical school year.

The Student Guardian system has been designed to curb dangerous driving and enforce traffic laws on school bus routes. The safety camera system is installed on the front and rear driver’s-side of a school bus. It monitors traffic while the bus’ stop arm is displayed, leaving the bus driver free to focus on students. Data supporting possible violations, including high-definition video and high-resolution images of license plates and drivers, is submitted to local law enforcement agencies to determine whether a citation is warranted. The system can be operated at no cost to taxpayers, as it is fully funded by violations. Two cities in Connecticut are currently running pilot programs, which will provide guidance to other cities and school districts on the effectiveness of the system.

Karen Finley, president and CEO of Redflex, said, “The threat of injury or death is very real for the 26 million students nationwide who rely on school bus transportation. Student Guardian will serve as a constant reminder for drivers to stop behind every school bus and make sure those students are safe. I cannot think of a better use for our enforcement technologies than student safety.”

So for civil libertarians who are worried about the increasing number of cameras cropping up everywhere - there will be more of them.