Friday, August 31, 2012

Perspective and scattershot - tailoring your message

A co-worker recently volunteered to add some "beef" to a proposal that I'm writing.

I responded by telling the co-worker that if I didn't hear from him, I'd start asking, "Where's the beef?"

The co-worker then sent me a link to a YouTube video of Clara Peller.

I replied with a link to a YouTube video of Walter Mondale and Gary Hart.

If you are completely mystified by the preceding paragraphs...that's why I didn't send the YouTube link to you. My co-worker and I shared a common perspective on this one item, so each of us knew what the other was talking about.

Each of us have different amounts of knowledge. Some of us are older, while others are younger. Some of us have particular interests, while others have different interests. You could tell me an obscure Nintendo gaming joke and I probably wouldn't get it unless a guy named Mario were involved. I can talk about the impact of fast-food commercials on political campaigns, and if you were born after said political campaign - or if you were born in a country other than the United States - you'd be completely mystified by what I was saying.

This is why general advertising can often be ineffective. Let's say that you decide to buy a Super Bowl (yes, I used the term) ad to advertise your latest Nintendo game. Yes, because so many people watch the Super Bowl (yes, I used the term again) you'll hit some people who have interest in said game. But in this scattershot approach you'll also hit some people who can't tell the difference between a Nintendo and a Sega, or between a dedicated game console and a computer that runs SimCity Social.

Isn't there a better way to spend your millions of dollars in advertising? What is the most effective way to reach your desired audience?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The effects of a paywall, as seen by @crimelabproject

Now I don't want to be one of those starry-eyed people who shout at traditional media organizations, "Paywall bad! Free good!"

But there clearly are some benefits to making your online content easily accessible.

The whole point of putting your stuff out on the web is for people to see it, and for you to make money off of it. To greatly simplify the economic model, there are two ways to go about this, which I'll call "the cable TV way" and "the dinosaur TV way." The cable TV way is to charge people to access the content - in modern media terms, a paywall. The dinosaur TV way is to put the content out for free, and then charge advertisers for the privilege of showing ads to the people enjoying the content.

Isn't it ironic that the economic model revered by the social media types is, in the world of American television, the older of the two models - one that has been in place since the 1940s? (And if you look at radio, you'll find that same model in existence several decades before Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz posed with their first cigarettes.)

The trick, of course, is to maximize revenue. In certain circumstances, paywalls bring in higher revenue. In other circumstances, free access coupled with advertising brings in higher revenue.

I subscribe to mailings from the Crime Lab Project (visit for more information). The mailings are a list of links to various articles about crime lab work. People in the industry can then click on the links and go to the articles themselves for more information.

How do links get into the Crime Lab Project mailings? Obviously the links have to involve some aspect of crime lab work - DNA, fingerprints, coroner issues, and the like. But there's one other condition, noted at the bottom of the mailing:

Some sites may require registration to view articles. We try not to link to sites requiring paid registration or subscriptions.

The reason for this is obvious. The Crime Lab Project newsletter wants to be useful to the people who read it. In the ideal case, the reader simply clicks on the link and immediately reads the article in question. In some cases, perhaps the person might have to obtain a free account to view the article.

But the Crime Lab Project links are not useful if I click on them, and then have to pay an additional $5 a month or whatever just to view the article.

Which is why the Crime Lab Project tries to avoid firewalled articles - basically, they're of no use to me and the other readers.

Which reduces the chance that someone will pay that $5 to access it.

Decoupling data and presentation - government examples

Although it's hard to discern at the present time, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney agree on many things. Their respective partisans may not believe this, but both President Obama and Governor Romney believe that many things can be accomplished through public-private partnerships. Most liberals agree that the private sector obviously play a key role in the economy, and most conservatives acknowledge that government, due to its sheer size, is going to affect the economy in some way.

So how do you get the private and public sectors to work together in the 21st century? President Obama has championed various digital initiatives, and I seriously doubt that Romney will scuttle them if he is elected. The website has a Digital Government Strategy page with a slew of recommendations. I'm only going to focus on one of them right now.

The page lists four strategy principles, the first of which is an information-centric approach. This is explained as follows:

Moves us from managing “documents” to managing discrete pieces of open data and content which can be tagged, shared, secured, mashed up and presented in the way that is most useful for the consumer of that information.

Two examples are presented - one from the Federal government, and one from local government. (For those who don't realize this, the Feds are not the sole source of innovation - state governments are making serious advances in providing government services. I can testify to this in my own industry, fingerprint identification systems, in which state and local governments were implementing palmprint identification systems years before the Federal government was able to attack the issue.)

Here's the Federal example:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is liberating web content by decoupling data and presentation. Using a “create once, publish everywhere mindset” and an API-driven syndication service, CDC’s content flows easily into multiple channels and is available for public and private reuse. Within its own channels, content is updated once, and then easily displayed on the main web site, the mobile site at, and in the various modules of the CDC mobile app.

In 2011, CDC’s liberated content was syndicated to 700 registered partners in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and 15 countries and accounted for an additional 1.2 million page views.

And here's a local example from my home state of California:

The City of San Francisco releases its raw public transportation data on train routes, schedules, and to-the-minute location updates directly to the public through web services. This has enabled citizen developers to write over 10 different mobile applications to help the public navigate San Francisco’s public transit systems—more services than the city could provide if it focused on presentation development rather than opening the data publicly through web services.

Now these things swing as a pendulum does, and I'm sure that a few years from now some Federal IT professional will be praising a new strategy in which data and presentation are tightly coupled. But this week's strategy is a good one, since it allows different organizations to concentrate on different strengths.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On lifedamming

I may - or may not - have coined a word. I seriously doubt that I coined a concept, but I'll take credit for coining the word.

I first used the word publicly on Monday in a comment on a Mona Nomura item in Facebook. This is what she said:

Hey people: your Instagram activity shows up in our FB newsfeeds. Some photos you people like are...very telling.

Here is my comment (among several that were offered):

A few years ago, the hot topic was lifestreaming. Now, with apologies to Mark Krynsky, I'm moving more and more toward lifedamming.

Who is Krynsky, you may ask? Krynsky is the author of the Lifestream Blog. Significantly, I met Krynsky at a FriendFeed meetup several years ago - FriendFeed, of course, was (and still is) a model of lifestreaming via content aggregation. Krynsky defines lifestreaming as follows:

What is a Lifestream?

In it’s simplest form it’s a chronological aggregated view of your life activities both online and offline. It is only limited by the content and sources that you use to define it.

Krynsky's last sentence is an important one. Ideally, you are the person who defines what is placed in your lifestream, and you can put as much - or as little - into your lifestream as you want. Two major controls over this are (a) privacy settings, and (b) sharing settings.

Privacy settings determine who can see a particular piece of online content. Take Nomura's Facebook item, for example. This particular item had a "Public" setting, but did Nomura intend for this comment to be public, where anyone could see it? Because of Nomura's technological sophistication, I have assumed that the public setting was intentional. But how many people post Facebook messages along the lines of "My boss is an idiot" or "I got so wasted last night," not realizing that everyone can see them? (And even if such messages are only shared to a limited crowd, any person in that limited crowd can capture a screen shot and share it publicly.)

Sharing settings determine how something shared on one service can be accessed via another service. Of course, that was (initially) FriendFeed's reason for being, and a number of other services capitalize on taking information from other services. In many cases, this sharing is mutually beneficial - when an article from McPaper is shared on ThisWeeksSocialService, then the McPaper people benefit from a larger audience, and ThisWeeksSocialService gets additional content. Everybody wins.

But not always. The aggregation of information about a particular person could yield information that the person doesn't want shared. Let's say that I'm sharing my tweets, my Foursquare checkins, and my likes to FriendFeed. What would you think if my FriendFeed contained the following items, all posted within a five-minute period?

(from Twitter) My head is spinning

(from "Red Solo Cup"

(from Foursquare) Check-in at my place of employment

And there are other potential problems with lifestreaming, which I won't get into here.

So what do you call it when you decide NOT to stream particular aspects of your life - either by not sharing them with other services, or by increasing privacy settings, or even by not putting the particular event online at all?

Well, I call it lifedamming.

At the lifedamming extreme, you keep your cellphone turned off at all times. (I could tell you stories about how leaving a cellphone on can get you into trouble - but I won't.) You pay with cash. You don't buy ANYTHING in England because there are too many cameras around.

In reality, all of us make choices between lifestreaming and lifedamming all the time. And at times we will tweak our lifestreaming/lifedamming balance. While we may know when the Louis Gray family rents a breast milk pump, I seriously doubt that we'll ever see a video of the moment of conception of the fourth Gray child. And I don't think that we'll see a Robert Scoble Foursquare checkin at his physical residence. (If I recall correctly, he checks in at a nearby public location, therefore not revealing his home address.)

How do you choose between lifestreaming and lifedamming? And have you recently changed your balance between the two?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The greatest marketer of all time lived over 1,000 years ago

When we think of great marketers, we think of people like John Sculley, who sold sugared water, and Steve Jobs, who sold hunks of plastic. Or perhaps we think of someone like Barack Obama, who sold "change."

But these people can't hold a candle to the greatest marketer of all time, a European who lived over 1,000 years ago.

I speak of Erik the Red.

What did he do?

According to some (but not all) Icelandic sources, Erik the Red was the person who gave Greenland its name, reputedly in an effort to encourage settlement in the cold climate.

And despite the efforts of the locals to have us call the island Kalaallit Nunaat, most of us still refer to the place as Greenland today.

Let's see if Pepsi or Apple can keep a marketing campaign going for a millennium.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Access Intelligence?

I received an interesting snail mail solicitation this afternoon.

You know how there are some solicitations that make a point of emphasizing who is doing the soliciting? You know that if Donald Trump wants you to buy something, his name and his image are going to be all over the solicitation.

Well, this solicitation wasn't like that. The company sending the solicitation wasn't identified - other than noting that its address was "1500 Wilson Blvd. Suite 515, Arlington, VA 22209." Wow, a company in Arlington - THAT'S real specific.

And there was one other thing on the envelope:


This indicates that these people sent me a solicitation in the past, and that I obviously didn't care for whatever was being sold, but that they're trying again anyway.

Why didn't I care for their previous solicitation? I found a hint in the way that the letter was addressed.


That's funny - I haven't been a Product Manager at Motorola since March 2009.

I opened the letter anyway. And it was from Defense Daily, who was selling me their daily newsletter for the low price of $2,397, plus an additional $300 discount, plus a $25 Starbucks card.

Wow - they didn't throw the Starbucks card into the offer when they sent me a similar offer in March 2009 (when I still did work for Motorola, but not on defense).

Back then, Defense Daily's list price was $2,297, which they offered to reduce by $200 to $2,097.

Today, Defense Daily's list price is $2,397, which they offered to reduce by $300 to $2,097. And they'd throw in a $25 Starbucks card.

(Oddly enough, I saw another source that stated that annual subscriptions were $2,197. Go figure.)

Perhaps I should go ahead and draft my blog post for 2015, by which time Defense Daily will cost $2,497. But I'll qualify for a $400 reduction to $2,097, and Defense Daily will throw in a $75 Amazon gift card (provided that Amazon still exists in 2015.)

Of course, the mail will still be addressed to a Motorola Product Manager.

When I looked at the reply envelope (with the words "PROCESS IMMEDIATELY!"), I noticed that the name of the company that publishes Defense Daily is a company called Access Intelligence.

My experience does not support this.

Friday, August 17, 2012

@nateritter from #sandiegofire to #occupy

It's hard to believe that almost five years have gone by since I first heard Nate Ritter's name.

And it just goes to show you how much things can change in five years.

Today it seems that just about everyone knows what hashtags are, and some people go out of their way to #overuse hashtags until their #tweets become an #unreadable #mess. This results in negative reactions.

But five years ago, hardly any of us knew what hashtags were. Sure Stowe Boy and Chris Messina were talking about the concept, but most of us weren't paying attention.

Nate Ritter helped to change that.

If you look at Ritter's resume, you'll see this one item in his list of accomplishments:

Helped popularize the #hashtag via Twitter during wildfires in Southern California, October 2007

Yeah, that Nate Ritter. The #sandiegofire guy. If you're not familiar with the story, read what Chris Messina wrote about it at the time. (I wrote about it also, but Messina's comments on hashtags obviously carry a lot more weight.)

I was in a "where are they now?" mood, and I found out that Ritter is doing the same thing that he was doing back in October 2007 - namely, running his business Perfect Space, Inc.

But he still comments on things from time to time, and he recently offered some comments on a very popular recent hashtag, #occupy.

This is (part of) what he said:

owning your own business is truly the only way to have any possible control over your own financial security.

Screw the banks.

Screw the bailouts.

Obviously there are macro-economics in play here which matter also in the long run. But, from the standpoint of the individual, voting with your jobs – perhaps by not having one – seems to continue to be the epicenter of change.

Read the rest here.

And if you want to see Ritter's micro-thoughts, go to

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Will Rafael Correa affect ths US elections?

While some news outlets are concentrating on Miley Cyrus' hair, others are focusing on Ecuador's recent action granting political asylum to Julian Assange.

Assange is currently in Ecuador's embassy in the United Kingdom, trying to evade an extradition order to Sweden to face sex crime charges. (Does anyone else have the Eurythmics song in their head right now?) Assange's fear is that Sweden will then extradite him to the United States to face charges related to revealing secret U.S. government information.

This has now escalated into a squabble between four countries - Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Ecuador - with the possibility of other countries weighing in on the dispute.

And it also means that Rafael Correa's name is appearing in the news more often.

Correa is the President of Ecuador. Reuters has provided information on Correa's background. While he has had disputes with the press in his own country, Correa clearly positions himself as an opponent of the special interests - something that has resonated with Assange.

In terms of U.S. politics, the following observations stand out:

Correa is part of a bloc of leftist presidents in Latin America that includes Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. They are fervent critics of U.S. "imperialism" and have put in place policies to boost state revenue from their countries' natural resources.

Correa's relationship with Washington has been stormy. He expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2011 after U.S. diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks alleged that his government turned a blind eye on police corruption. In 2007, he refused to extend a lease letting the U.S. military use the Manta airbase for counter-narcotics flights, and in 2009 he expelled two U.S. Embassy officials in another case involving the police.

Correa is reportedly popular in Ecuador, and is expected to run for re-election in February 2013.

But what of the election in the United States?

It's quite possible that this may not become an issue at all, since both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney oppose the disclosure of government secrets. (It's Obama, after all, who has imprisoned Bradley Manning.)

But it's possible that Romney could accuse Obama of causing the stalemate, or that Obama could accuse Bush of causing the stalemate, or that Biden will say something stupid (actually, that's not possible - that's probable).

And this could backfire for Correa. While Correa is obviously taking actions that are popular with his electorate, he has now given the United States one more reason to be displeased with him - and when the United States looks at another country, it looks at it with its own interests in mind. I can cite myself as an example - of all of the ramifications of the Assange standoff, I immediately focused on the "what does this mean for the U.S.?" angle.

Well, let's give the Tea Party and the Occupy folks something to talk about.

Madrid, Madrid, and the London Olympics

There is a Harvard Business Review post with an interesting introductory paragraph.

Part of the paragraph reads as follows:

There were five finalists in the race to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Were the mayors of London, Madrid, Moscow, Madrid, and Paris all certifiably mad when deciding to bid for the most important and complex sports event on the face of the planet?

Well, it's obvious that at least one of these mayors was certifiably mad. Apparently the mayor of Madrid suffered from multiple personality disorder.

The fifth finalist, by the way, was New York City. In case you can't tell the difference between Madrid and New York, I should note that one of the two cities has a thriving Spanish artistic community. The other city is in Spain.

As for the HBR thesis - namely, that many recent Olympics have brought long-term benefits to the host cities that long outlast the games themselves - we're seeing some evidence of that in London, as Jill Lawless has noted:

Now that the games are over, [Olympic Park] is eerily deserted....Small groups of construction workers are working to transform the venues for use in the Paralympic Games, which begin Aug. 29....It will be closed to the public until the Paralympics - and for almost a year afterwards, while some venues are torn down and others are modified. It will open in stages from next summer as the 560-acre (227-hectare) Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When candy manufacturers talk about healthy living

Sometimes you can't win.

No matter what product you sell, there is someone in the world who regards your product as pure, utter evil. Not just bad, but evil. Whether you sell tobacco, or Bibles, or steak, or baby formula, or fingerprint identification systems, or tennis shoes, your opponents will argue that your product is evil for some reason or another. And if you try to address the negative reactions to your product, even the way in which you address them will be characterized as evil.

I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I normally keep a large container of cashews at my desk at work, but when I ran out of cashews one day, I went to the machines in the cafeteria and bought a package of peanut M&Ms. I was looking at the back of the package, and saw that it promoted a website called

My first reaction was to roll my eyes and say to myself, "Yeah, right."

But I figured that I should give the website a try.

I followed the "Staying Healthy" link, and was presented with a number of links to information about exercise, calorie consumption vs. activity, and other topics. I was disappointed, however, to find that the information was surprisingly generic; it could have come from my own health insurance company instead of Mars. I wanted to see a video of the M&Ms leading me in jumping jacks.

I got the same feeling at the "Feeling Good" link, which was populated by material from Dr. Dean Ornish. In case you haven't heard, Dr. Ornish did not receive his PhD in chocolates from Ghiradelli University. Dr. Ornish is a medical doctor that Mars hired for its web page.

Then I went to "Our Commitment." This can be a fearful exercise, because whenever you go to a web page in which a company spouts off platitudes, you know that it was created by a committee, advised by a Senior Platitude Conceptualist. But I did find some content here that was unique to Mars:

We know that our marketing practices need to support our customers' health and nutrition goals. In fact, Mars was the first food company to announce that we would stop advertising to children under 12 in every market where we operate.

I clicked through to the Responsibility page, and read some additional information that wasn't written by a generic Senior Platitude Conceptualist:

To encourage the responsible consumption of Mars products, we have been working to provide versions of our products that provide smaller portions, or allow the products to be shared or consumer over time, rather than in one sitting. We’ve stopped marketing King Size portions of our candy, and now, our larger-portion products are available in Sharing Sizes, multiple pieces or twist-wrap packaging.

Of course, the naysayers can criticize this also. Take a look at this quote from an NPR article on the change:

The 2-ounce Snickers currently sold in our NPR vending machine has 280 calories, and with the downsize it will lose about 11 percent of its size.

Even if Mars lowers the price of the downsized bars by 11 percent (or the appropriate percentage), it still stands to gain, since people wanting their usual candy fix will buy more of the smaller candy bars. And since the smaller products usually have higher unit pricing, this will result in higher profits for Mars.

New York City should remember this as it works to ban the evil large sized soft drinks. Can you imagine how much money a fast food place will make from the teenage guy who buys three 16 oz sodas?

Or perhaps large sodas will exist in the black market. As Phil Hickey put it, If they outlaw big sodas only outlaws will drink big sodas!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The power of social media improves customer service! Yeah, right.

Back in October 2008, when I was blogging as Ontario Emperor, I wrote about my stay at the Days Inn on Rosecrans in San Diego. I also submitted a review on Yelp for the motel, giving it one star.

One would think that negative reviews on a service such as Yelp would inspire a business to improve its practices.

One would think wrong.

While there are a few positive reviews of the motel, primarily because of price, most reviews are in the 1-2 star category.

Here's part of a review from April 2009:

The room smelled weird when we first arrived. We had a standard 2-bed free breakfast suite for 4 nights. There is one TV in the living room, and one TV in the bedroom. The TV in the bedroom did not work. The bathroom was clean ... but the toilet did not work that well. Everything else was okay. The furniture definitely needs some upgrading!

August 2010:

First off, the [toilets] did not flush, So I looked at it and found the water supply line turned off, no big deal... I tried to turn it on.. Knob was broken.. uhh ok, called for maintainance.. waited 20 minutes, guy came up and looked at it.. told me it was fine.. haha.. I went back to check on his work.. he turned the supply line off again.. OK, no big deal, I was able to turn it back on with my own tools. - fine it works good enough. Later, I tried to turn on the rooms AC, got it to work for 10 seconds and all this crud blew out of it. (this tells me it has not works awhile).

Later in August 2010:

I made it to the "seedy" room only to find that it was moldy and musty! Yuck! It was one of the most disgusting rooms I've ever seen!

June 2011:

[W]e inquired about the airport pick up at least 3 times and confirmed that it was at noon. However, the shuttle didn't come until after 12:30, and the girl at the front desk could not care less. First she said it'll be there in 5 minutes, and when we asked again, she said 10.

August 2011:

[W]hen we got in there, one of the rooms had that stench of smoke. We booked non-smoking rooms weeks ago. A crib, which was also requested when we booked the rooms was not there. We complained at the front desk, and after a long time of shuffling around rooms we finally got one that did not smell. They had to separate the two room, but luckily we were able to swap with our friends, so at least two of those rooms were together. It then went downhill from there: the AC was not working, and neither was the TV.

Average review is 2 1/2 stars. As I said, there are some positive reviews.

One could reason that (a) you get what you pay for, and therefore there is no expectation to get good rooms at this location, and (b) the motel's proximity to Seaworld, Old Town, and the Marine Corps boot camp ensure that the motel will get customers no matter how bad it is.

But I'm still surprised to see that certain problems such as reservation issues (in our case, there were ashtrays in our non-smoking room), non-functional TVs and toilets, and staff issues still persist at this location for years, despite several complaints and at least two parties (myself and one other) canceling our reservations within a few minutes of arriving at the place.

The reason for this? It's because even in these days in which we imagine that everyone is cyber-connected, the majority of people apparently go to sites such as Days Inn's own site instead of going to Yelp or TripAdvisor (which rates this motel as the 175th best hotel out of 247 in the area).

Monday, August 13, 2012

(empo-tuulwey) An additional observation about proposal physical war rooms #apmp

See my previous post here.

I only have one thing to add to it.

Even the best corkboard in a proposal war room is useless if you don't have any push pins to attach the paper to the corkboard.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Management is not mathematics

It was my understanding that there would be no math... during the debates. (Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford)

I recently received a communication from a management organization. The organization is obviously not a mathematical organization.

There are more than 4,200 members in 26 chapters worldwide. Slightly more than 3,200 members are in the United States, and more than 1,200 are in international chapters. Close to 70 percent of the membership is from the United States, and nearly 30 percent is international.

While I can deduce that 200 people are members of both domestic and international chapters - jet-setters, you know - I'm at a loss to explain the 1-2% of members who are neither from the United States or international. Are they stateless? Are they illegal/undocumented? Are they from other planets?

Perhaps I'm being too picky. Another professional who saw the message remarked that it is accurate to say that there are more than 4,200 members. The professional also noted that "close to" could technically mean "more than."

Unfortunately, I can't really criticize here. Several years ago, I wrote some release notes for a process improvement that spoke about "qualtiy."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kevin Closson's neat acronym

Acronyms are fun.

Kevin Closson had a problem to solve:

You’re facing the need to assess Oracle random physical I/O capability on a given platform in preparation for OLTP/ERP style workloads. Perhaps the storage team has assured you of ample bandwidth for both high-throughput and high I/O operations per second (IOPS). But you want to be sure and measure for yourself so off you go looking for the right test kit.

Closson ended up developing his own solution to the problem.

The solution has the acronym SLOB.

This acronym stands for Silly Little Oracle Benchmark.

Oh, but one thing:

SLOB, however, is neither a benchmark nor silly.

Oh well. People like it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

(empo-tuulwey) No, the Obama "Democrat app" is not an invasion of privacy

People are jumping up and down over the latest supposed invasion of privacy. Here's how the Inquisitr reports the story:

The new app unveiled by the Obama campaign rubs elbows with Google maps, displaying a map with blue flags on it, each representing the closest registered Democrat households to your standing location....

At first glance it sounds creepy. Stand on a street corner, take out your iPhone...and FIND THE DEMOCRATS. You'd almost think that the Republicans, rather than the Obama campaign, were behind the app.

But I have news for everyone. I have been able to FIND THE DEMOCRATS for years - long before the iPhone was even invented.

And now I will tell you how to find the Democrats...and the Republicans...and the Greens - at least in California. Or at least one way to do it - there are probably others.

First, go to your local precinct - or someone else's local precinct - on Election Day.

Second, find the printed list of registered voters that is (at least in California) publicly posted at the precinct.

Third, read it. It has names and addresses, and is sorted in both name order and street order.

It's that simple.

Don't blame Barack Obama or Tim Cook for this. If you think that this information should be private, then you have to make the information non-public.

Some thoughts about Justin Kestelyn and the Oracle Technology Network

I guess this information is now public, so I can comment on it.

Today is Justin Kestelyn's last day at Oracle.

Kestelyn headed an organization within Oracle known as the Oracle Technology Network (OTN). While I haven't interacted much with Kestelyn since my 2009 job change, I was certainly interacting with him in my years as a product manager at Motorola, when I would attend Oracle OpenWorld frequently. In addition to my professional duties on behalf of Motorola, I have also blogged about Oracle upon occasion - in fact, one of the last substantial posts in which I mentioned Kestelyn was a post about the 2009 Oracle blogger meetup at Oracle OpenWorld. (That's the one with the t-shirts and the markers.)

But Kestelyn did more than fund beer for bloggers (although this is a Very Important Task). The purpose of the Oracle Technology Network was to provide a way for Oracle customers to obtain technical information about Oracle's ever-expanding line of products. This information was conveyed in a variety of ways, including live (and pre-recorded) videos and a variety of digital and printed publications. For example, see what CIO wrote back in 2008, and also look at this case study.

While some will assert that Oracle did not do as much as it could have in the social media arena, it at least made the effort in various areas, including unconferences. And when you talk about a large organization such as Oracle, it's understandable that some organizations are ahead of others in social media adoption.

Kestlyn and OTN have accomplished a lot, and it sounds like OTN will continue to excel in the future. As Justin departs, I wish the Clash City Rocker well in his future endeavors.

P.S. See this post from Hector Madrid.

Theater Security Theater revisited

In my July 23 post about the Aurora shootings, I noted that security specialist Bruce Schneier refrained from immediately blogging about Aurora - an attitude that I found refreshing.

Well, Schneier has now written about Aurora. The title - Overreaction and Overly Specific Reactions to Rare Risks - says it all. I'll confine myself to one quote:

Because people overreact to rare events, they're useful catalysts for social introspection and policy change. The key here is to focus not on the details of the particular event but on the broader issues common to all similar events.

Again, I urge you to read the entire article.

(empo-tuulwey) Social Strategy Part 4 - Do You Like Your Customers?

Go to Part 3

I hope you see what I did. First I talked about the word "You." Then I talked about the word "Do." Next, I talked about the word "Like." Finally, I've put them all together and added two more words.

So, do you like your customers?

That is a critical question when working on a social media strategy.

If you like your customers, then you will be more inclined to interact with them and listen to them and engage with them and do all those wonderful things that social media experts tell you that you're supposed to do. More importantly, they'll be believable, and you'll have a community that likes you as much as you like them, and will be loyal to your brand.

If you don't like your customers, then any effort at engagement is doomed to failure, because you won't want to engage with your customers, and you won't want to build a vibrant community.

Does that mean that you shouldn't use social media if you hate your customers? No, it means that you may use social media in a different way - specifically, as a one-way avenue to push stuff out to your customers without expecting, or acknowledging, anything in return.

Um, excuse me - it looks like I just received an urgent tweet from an SEO guru. Let me share this tweet with you.

ur doing it wrong

If you ask any self-appointed SEO expert, he or she will tell you that using Twitter or Facebook to push out information without listening to the customer is very, very bad. You, the expert will state, are locked in twentieth century business models that are inappropriate for the new age of wonderment and magic, when loyal communities form around brands and their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages and Foursquare checkins.

With all due respect, anyone who loudly proclaims "You're doing it wrong" is...well, they're doing it wrong.

While I happen to believe that two-way engagement is better than one-way pushing of data, I am not you. There is no Federal law that mandates that you have to respond to every tweet that mentions your organization, nor will any religious organization disfellowship with someone who turns off comments on their blogs.

If you want to use Twitter as a one-way method of communication, then by all means do so.

If you want to delete every negative Facebook comment after a scandal, then by all means do so.

You need to choose a communication style that is comfortable for you. If you do not like your customers, then it's worthless to pretend that you do.

Hmm...I'm half tempted to close comments on this post. But I won't.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Money talks - why rainwater collection is illegal in some jurisdictions

Hey, kids, let's do our part to save the environment and be green! And it's really really easy! All that you have to do is set up some type of water collection system at your house. When it rains, you collect the water, and then you can use that water for drinking and bathing and other stuff!

Isn't that neat?

Oh, and one other thing - depending upon where you live, you might have to dodge the police.

You see, kids, diverting rainwater can be illegal:

It’s illegal in Utah to divert rainwater without a valid water right, and Mark Miller of Mark Miller Toyota, found this out the hard way.

After constructing a large rainwater collection system at his new dealership to use for washing new cars, Miller found out that the project was actually an “unlawful diversion of rainwater.” Even though it makes logical conservation sense to collect rainwater for this type of use since rain is scarce in Utah, it’s still considered a violation of water rights which apparently belong exclusively to Utah’s various government bodies....

Salt Lake City officials worked out a compromise with Miller and are now permitting him to use “their” rainwater....

To understand why various government bodies are opposed to this, you only need to look at this quote elsewhere in the Health Freedom Alliance post:

Douglas County, Colorado, conducted a study on how rainwater collection affects aquifer and groundwater supplies. The study revealed that letting people collect rainwater on their properties actually reduces demand from water facilities and improves conservation.

Now all you have to do is to follow the money. Reduced demand from water facilities means reduced revenue for your local water agency, which could result in reductions in jobs, threats to pensions, and so forth. So guess what? Government water agencies are naturally inclined to oppose conservation measures such as rainwater collection.

Now one could argue that we could incentivize governemnt water agencies to encourage reductions in demand...but as any analysis of the U.S. agricultural system will note, such restrictions can cause immense problems of their own. Mark Bittman:

Agricultural subsidies have helped bring us high-fructose corn syrup, factory farming, fast food, a two-soda-a-day habit and its accompanying obesity, the near-demise of family farms, monoculture and a host of other ills.

And despite Bittman's agrument that agricultural subsidies must be fixed rather than scrapped, I suspect that any "fix" will introduce problems of its own.

And I suspect that any government program to encourage rainwater collection will introduce problems too.

And that, kids, is how economics works.

H/T George Station.

Using Quora as an extremely transparent promotional tool

I don't know why I didn't think of this before.

As FedScoop notes, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park has answered a Quora question about the Obama Administration's efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

The original question was asked by...the Obama Administration.

As I write this, the Romney campaign has not taken advantage of this opportunity. I'm certain that the campaign would love to provide its answer to the question...and that its answer may somewhat differ from CTO Park's response.

As FedScoop noted, this is not the first time that the Obama Administration's CTO has taken to Quora. Previous CTO Aneesh Chopra was active on Quora last year.

Now I just have to compose a Quora question "Which Ontario, California-based blog is the best business blog out there?" However, I'm not sure how many desirable responses I would get...

(empo-tuulwey) Social Strategy Part 3 - Like

Go to Part 2, Part 4

While the ultimate goal of a social media strategy should be an increase in revenue, there are various subsidiary goals that contribute to this overall goal. One of those goals is the establishment of an identifiable presence - either via your name, your brand, or your name for someone else (hear that, Rita Moreno of Arte)?

Because social media is (supposed to be) social, it is preferable that social media practitioners engage in a dialogue with their customers. While I'll speak more on that later, I'll note right now that it's hard to create a truly meaningful and deep dialogue on the philosophical merits of a particular toothpaste or word processing application.

But there's an easier way to promote interaction. This interaction method, pioneered by FriendFeed, was adopted by Facebook (several months before Facebook acquired FriendFeed itself) - the like. Back in February 2009, Adam Ostrow wrote:

Facebook seems to get more similar to FriendFeed every day. The latest, the addition of an “I like this” link on News Feed items, is one of the more significant challenges to the lifestreaming service yet, as it essentially duplicates a major component of what makes FriendFeed tick – a simple, one-click display of indicating your liking of a specific item in a stream of activities and a view of all of the other people that have also liked it.

From Facebook, the feature spread all over the place, sometimes under different names (Google calls its similar feature "+1").

In addition to being simple, the like feature is a powerful one to demonstrate (or fake) devotion to your persona or brand or whatever. If I can con a few hundred people into liking this post on Google+ or Facebook or Twitter (via number of retweets) or wherever, then I'll have a pretty powerful set of statistics that will attract attention.

And when likes are combined with a friend list, they become even more powerful. It's one thing to know that a hundred people like a particular dishwashing detergent, but it's another thing altogether to know that my friend Peter, my friend Susie, and 98 other people like that detergent. Peter's and Susie's recommendations are more powerful than the recommendations of hundreds of people that I don't know.

In social media sales, as in all other sales, the goal is to be liked.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Klout and Lircles - Bieber's super-secret private messages

While I may have quibbles with some of the mechanics of how Klout works, I mostly cannot argue with the basic premise of Klout.


Klout measures influence on a scale with a maximum value of 100, and one thing that strikes some as funny is the fact that Justin Bieber has a perfect Klout score, which is much higher than Tim Berners-Lee's Klout score. This causes a lot of upturned noses, but not from me. For example, if I were to tweet some support for my country's Olympic team, hardly anyone would take notice. When Bieber tweets support for Team Canada, the results are slightly different.

Yes, that's right. Over 5,000 people favorited this tweet, and over 12,000 people retweeted it.

That's clout, regardless of how you spell it.

However, I noted that I have one quibble with the basic premise of Klout the service. In an official blog post that discusses how Klout works, this important caveat is offered:

We are only able to give you credit for the influence we can see, so if you have a private network that isn’t connected to Klout it will not be counted in your Score.

This is an understandable limitation. For Klout to be able to measure private lircles (lists and circles), Klout would have to have extensive access to your data, and the data of the other people in the lircle. And that just isn't going to happen.

But how much influence is exerted publicly?

A lot of influence is exerted privately, and while public influence is certainly powerful, in some cases privately-exerted influence is even more powerful.

Take Tim Berners-Lee, for example. There is a very good possibility that Berners-Lee, during his next visit to New York City, may spend a little bit of time in the offices of the National Broadcasting Company. And perhaps while he's there, he may take time to introduce himself to an NBC employee named Meredith Vieira.

The conversation will probably be a pleasant conversation, perhaps even with a chuckle or two.

And I'll bet that conversation will influence Vieira, who will better understand the power of the World Wide Web.

And I'll also bet that conversation will influence Berners-Lee, who will better understand the power of the media. (Remember that some of us live in a bubble, and that 90% of the people listening to Vieira's comment probably agreed with her.)

And you know what? That conversation will be a private conversation, well beyond the measurement capabilities of Klout or any external service.

A number of people - your boss, the boss of your boss, and Justin Bieber - wield great private influence which is similarly beyond the measure of external services. Your boss tells you what to do. The boss of your boss tells her what to do. And Justin Bieber tells record company executives, magazines, and other artists exactly what to do.

And the critics of Klout do have one thing right. Just because Bieber has great influence on the general population doesn't necessarily mean that Bieber influences you.

(empo-tuulwey) Social Strategy Part 2 - Do

Go to Part 1, Part 3

I've already talked about the word "you." Now I'm going to talk about the word "do." (This will all fit together in the end - trust me.)

Not too long ago, Jonathan Hardesty shared this:

Tips and tricks to being a better writer:


The end. Don't EVER pay money for that kind of advice.

He's correct.

I have literally written thousands of blog posts over the last nine years - over 3,000 posts in the five Empoprises blogs, and thousands more in other blogs. Is this blog post better than my very first blog post? Perhaps, perhaps not. But I've certainly learned a lot along the way. A lot.

And if someone is going to be involved in social media they...well, they need to be involved in social media. Don't be like the person with the Twitter name seoexpert who has a Klout score that is below 20. Regardless of the criticisms of Klout, a score below 20 certainly compares poorly with a score above 50.

Are you out there in the virtual world?