Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Information from .@RickHolman on non-compete agreements

After I wrote my post on former WAAY-TV reporter Shea Allen's non-compete clause, I received a series of tweets from Rick Holman. Now I have never heard of Holman before, so I figured I'd check his Twitter profile. Here's the first sentence of that profile:

Indie Author who writes about non-compete agreements.

So, what did Holman share with me?

First, he shared a link to this article about the Halifax Media Group. It's about print, not television, but obviously the same principles apply.

Halifax Media Group is the outfit that recently bought the New York Times Co.'s 16 regional newspapers. Just after it did, Halifax decided to require the papers' employees to sign an extremely onerous non-compete contract if they wanted to stay on the roster.

The contract meant that staffers who left the papers for any reason could not work for any news outlet in a market with a Halifax property for two years. In other words, even if you were fired, you couldn't take a media job in your hometown or any other Halifax city.

Those cities included Gainesville and Sarasota in Florida, Tuscaloosa in Alabama, and Santa Rosa in California. (We'll look at California again a little later in this post.) According to the American Journalism Review, Halifax backed off for the acquired employees, but still wanted to implement this for new employees. Or, as AJR put it:

The tone of the "employee non-solicitation, non-compete and confidentiality agreement" is relentlessly harsh. Halifax's approach makes Bain Capital seem like a socialist collective.

But that isn't the only thing that Rick Holman shared with me. It turns out that an employee signed a five-year two-county non-compete agreement with O'Bannon Publishing Company, and then tried to argue that the agreement was unenforceable because of the lengthy duration. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected her claim (PDF).

If this topic interests you, then you might want to check into Holman's own story, and what he's doing about it.

P.S. Perhaps you've heard talk of sports figures who would rather work in Texas rather than California because of the different tax structures in the two states. But from Holman's perspective, working in California is infinitely preferable to working in Texas.

Dear Mr. Katz:

I was reading your op-ed piece from Town Hall today and thought I would help you in clearing things up as to why no one is going to move from California to Texas anytime soon. I realize that the LA Times piece did not mention this reason but the reality is that there is only one reason why this the case.

Anyway, the reason no one in California will move to Texas is because of non-compete agreements. If you’re not familiar with them, I can tell you briefly what my non-compete agreement is since it’s pretty standard in the industry. The bottom line is this: I’m an at Will employee and my company can fire me at any time for any reason and I can’t work in the industry for two years.

If this subject is new to you, I can tell you that your brothers and sisters who work at radio stations in different parts of the country are probably familiar with this since lawyers who draw up these non-compete agreements have run amuck in suing employees in your industry no matter how frivolous the lawsuit is....

Taking a stand against Google? Not exactly.

There is a principled way to live, and there is a not principled way to live. (Most of us, myself included, admittedly choose the latter.)

And there is also the option of claiming to live by principles when you do nothing of the sort.

Take anti-Google sentiment. Any large entity - Google, the AARP, the Deadheads - generates its own opposition because of its size. This became apparent when viewing the contents of a recent GigaOM post. The post concerned Google's changes to the Zagat service that it owns; reviewers now have to sign up for Google+ to continue to have reviewing privileges. Or, as GigaOM put it:

Zagat fans received an email this week saying the restaurant rating site will pull the plug on user reviews — unless, that is, they sign up for a Google+ account.

I received a copy of the email by way of a disgruntled friend who harrumphed about the search giant finding another way of “forcing” users onto its unloved social network.

In case you don't know it, there's a really easy way to get a Google+ user riled up. Refer to Google+ as "unloved" or as a "ghost town," and you'll get a lot of angry invective. In fact, whenever a major publication wants to get some page views and "engagement," it simply runs another story about Google+ being a ghost town. It's guaranteed to sucker in the angry comments - works every time!

But in this case, GigaOM didn't only get comments from angry Google+ users; it also got comments from people who are angry at Google.

Here's what Roger L had to say:

Everything Google does seems directed at collecting more info for their ad business, often now making negotiating the web more difficult for users. I remember when Google used to mean the exact opposite.

Roger then helpfully provided his e-mail address:

rogerusher at gmail dot com

Yes, Roger is using a free e-mail service from Google, yet complaining about all the stuff Google is doing for its ad business.

(And yes, I know that I am constantly complaining about my personal YouTube situation. Yet I know that I get what I pay for.)

But Roger L's stance is minor compared to the stance of Expatriate for Jesus, who really let Google have it:

Google is clearly wanting to become big brother. From having their employees have food so that they can work unending hours, to having a gross amount of TVCs (Contractors), Google has a reputation for working their people to the bone and giving a rats ass about any of them. They want everyone under Google+ so that they can have more money.

After more of the same, Expatriate concludes:

Don’t use Google+

It is what George Orwell warned us about.

Now this is a more critical stance than "ads increase navigation difficulty." This is a moral offense against humanity and society. Slavery, capitalism, and mind control. The solution, as an old Apple ad agency would say, would be to take your hammer, smash the Big Brother screen, and refuse to be sucked into Google+. This is how the expatriate would save the country. Jesus would be proud.

Well, until Jesus looked at the link embedded in the Expatriate's comment.

Presumably Expat is claiming that the use of "built by slave labor" Blogger to spread the message is merely an application of Luke 16:9. Perhaps...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The pound of Brixton (Reprise)

Since Jesse Stay is talking about bitcoin (as are others), it seemed to be a good time to look at another alternative currency - the Brixton Pound. I first wrote about the Brixton Pound over a year ago. If you were not reading my blog then, let me explain that the Brixton Pound is a hyperlocal currency that can be purchased and used in Brixton.

Obviously, a currency can only be used if both parties in a transaction agree to use it. And while people are discussing the Brixton Pound at the local TedX, that in itself does not guarantee that it can actually be used anywhere.

But in the case of the Brixton pound, it appears that it is gaining traction. The Brixton Pound website's directory page lists dozens upon dozens of businesses that accept the alternative currency.

But that's not enough. Harry Cathead wanted to find other businesses - ones that aren't listed on town websites - who would accept the currency.

I bought B£20 from Morleys department store and went out in search of a dealer who appreciated a sense of community pride. The first guys I ran into just off Atlantic Road said I could get some "food" if I hung around for five minutes, but changed their minds as soon as I grabbed the Brixton Pounds out of my wallet. "No, man, I ain't ever seen that shit round here before. Better go to the shop and change it back." I tried to explain that it was Brixton money – something that does a great deal to support the local economy – but to no avail.

Cathead tried two other dealers, with no better success, and ended up spending his Brixton pounds at a local pub.

Should have used bitcoin. Those bitcoin users have the guvmint.

Former WAAY reporter Shea Allen and non-compete clauses

In case you missed the story, Shea Allen was a reporter for WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama who claims to have been fired for a personal blog post that the station regarded as unprofessional. Excerpt:

2. My best sources are the ones who secretly have a crush on me.

3. I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I'm talking about.

So the next time some social media expert approaches you and raves about transparency and honesty, ask the so-called expert how much good that did Shea Allen. Or former BP CEO Tony Hayward.

Obviously there are a number of issues involved in the Shea Allen case, but one phrase in a Blaze story caught my eye.

Now, she has to figure out how to support her son — a feat that could prove difficult, as Allen claims the station told her that her non-compete clause will prevent her from working for competitors in the area. Despite their alleged refusal to allow her to seek nearby employment, she said they did pledge to provide a reference.

Allen is hoping to get out of her contract and stay in Huntsville, as she contends that her “options are limited” — at least at the moment.

The first thought that came to mind - would an employer truly try to enforce a non-compete clause even if the employer had fired the employee in question? Presumably, if Shea Allen is such a bad reporter that WAAY could no longer use her, wouldn't WAAY be ruining its competitors by letting such a substandard employee work for them?

Well, Allen's contract isn't public record, but an anonymous former insurance agent posted the relevant language of HIS non-compete clause:

"Upon the termination of this agreement for any reason, employee shall neither directly nor indirectly, either herself or in conjunction with any other person or company, initiate or engage in conducting title searches or preparing, issuing, or selling title insurance policies or providing any service which would in any way compete with [name of company] at any location, within a One Hundred mile radius from [town, state]..."

Whether this insurance agent's non-compete clause is enforceable is another matter, and whether Allen's non-compete clause is enforceable is another matter. But these episodes show that you need to read your employment contracts.

The young people in frontier markets - can we see them?

DISCLOSURE: I am a citizen of the United States. When someone says the word "frontier" to me, I think of the American West, or at least the Hollywood version of the American West. If someone says "frontier market" to me, I think of a storekeeper who bursts through the doors of his store, saying to Clint Eastwood, "The bad guys are coming to town!" The storekeeper runs away, leaving an empty chair in front of his store. Clint starts talking to the empty chair, asking it how many bullets he fired and if it (the chair) feels lucky.

OK, I guess I went overboard on that particular illustration.

"Frontier market" has an entirely different meaning to South Korean companies:

Samsung Securities said on July 25 in a research report that the expectations on the "frontier markets" that include African economies have been on the rise.

Forget the self-serving mention of the fact that Samsung Securities says that Samsung Electronics will benefit from these frontier markets. Why are these markets attractive now, when they have not been attractive in the past?

"Since the mid-2000s when most African nations moved toward a more stable political milieu, major African economies have grown in a spectacular fashion. The demography with a mostly young population is also a favorable condition for the continent," the authors added.

Now I don't know if the Korean companies have overcome the payment obstacles that make other companies reluctant to do business in Africa, but if they have, they're going to make a lot of Naira. Or Won. (1 Nigerian Naira is worth a little less than 7 South Korean Won, by the way.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Contest - rewrite Disney's mission statement!

Even if you know nothing else about sales, you know that customers are important. I thought about this recently while reading a blurb for a particular event (disclosure: I am connected to one of the sponsors), which uses specific language to make potential customers feel good:

...that is why [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] are thrilled to invite you to join us - and an elite group of your peers - for an inspired afternoon...

...[EVENT] is an invitation only Executive Summit that will bring together the intellectual brain trust of the [REDACTED] industry...

Yes, it's corny. Even if I personally believe that I am an elite member of a brain trust, I'm not necessarily an executive. But it makes me feel good when I'm pitched in this way.

Oddly enough, this technique is not universal. Cole Jensen looked at the mission statements of several companies, including Disney.

The Walt Disney Company’s objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products. The company’s primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to allocate capital profitability toward growth initiatives that will drive long-term shareholder value.

Oddly enough, the mission statement does not mention any desire to delight the PEOPLE receiving said entertainment and information. This is especially odd because of Disney's fanatical devotion to customer service, especially at its theme parks. But if you were to judge Disney by its mission statement alone, it doesn't care about customers - it only cares about creating differentiated content to keep shareholders happy. While shareholders are extremely important, perhaps one should say HOW to drive that value. What about this?

The Walt Disney Company's objective is to produce a diverse range of entertainment and information that delights and inspires people, thus maximizing earnings, cash flow, and long-term shareholder value.

Perhaps it's because I'm an elite member of a brain trust, but I frankly think that my cut at Disney's mission statement is an improvement on the original. In fact, I think Disney should pay me for rewriting its mission statement. Bob Iger, you can contact me at the "empoprises" account at Gmail to find out where to send my check.

And readers, if you want a check from Bob Iger, add your rewritten Disney mission statement in the comments below, or in your own post.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Is Los Angeles a company town?

There's a local radio commercial that talks about business in Los Angeles as consisting of scripts being delivered. Whenever I hear it, I laugh - partially because I live in the Inland Empire, which is not exactly a hotbed of the entertainment industry, and partially because even if I did live on Sunset, the stereotype certainly doesn't fit the reality.

Or does it?

I thought about anecdotal evidence that I've collected during my time in California.

There was the time that my family contracted with a home service provider, and it turned out that the home service provider had his own reality show.

There was the time that I received a telephone call from someone who purported to be a private investigator. While the fact that she called me on my unlisted number lent credence to her claim of being a P.I., I still wanted to check her out. When I went online, I found her company website, her license number, her participation in a criminal trial of a major entertainment figure, and a press release regarding plans for her own reality show.

There was the time (long ago) that I went with some church friends to a holiday celebration and met their cousin Dorothy, who was a writer. You probably know her better by her initials, "D.C." As far as I know, she hasn't launched her own reality show. Yet.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Los Angeles is a company town dedicated to entertainment, right?

Well, it's always good to check anecdotal evidence, and I found some September 2011 statistics on Los Angeles area employment. Limiting our scope to the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale Metropolitan Division, total nonfarm employment in September 2011 was 3,776,400. The largest industry? Trade, transportation, and utilities, with 737,300. Second largest? Government, with 553,700. Third is education and health services, with 536,500. While entertainment is not called out, it could conceivably fall under professional and business services (532,400), or perhaps even leisure and hospitality (394,600). However, it's clear that despite, entertainment is not the leading industry in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale Metropolitan Division.

Or perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps the trade/transportation/utilities industry consists of stunt drivers and set designers, while education/health services includes condom providers (for the Valley entertainment industry) and drug dealers (for the so-called "legitimate" entertainment industry). And government? Well, government consists of a bunch of actors anyway - look at Anthony Weiner's starring movie roles. (You look at them; I'd rather not.)

What the NSA is doing to SECURE your e-mail

From what I understand, the NSA has been mentioned in the news recently. To sum up the story, President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and everyone else believes that it is in our national interest for the government to log every single telephone call, e-mail, text, Pinterest posting, or whatever. More or less. Although perhaps they drew the line at sexting messages.

But that's not all that the NSA is doing regarding e-mail.

I ran across a piece in Homeland Security News Wire that talked about a research paper:

The author of a paper to be presented at the upcoming 2013 International Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, to be held 30 September-4 October in San Diego, has described behavioral, cognitive, and perceptual attributes of e-mail users who are vulnerable to phishing attacks....

Kyung Wha Hong discovered that people who were overconfident, introverted, or women were less able accurately to distinguish between legitimate and phishing e-mails.

I looked up Ms. Hong (who is not the sole author of the paper, but is the lead author), and discovered that phishing is not her primary interest. But when she talked about her interest in phishing, I found out something else:

I'm also currently working as Research Assistant for a project funded by National Security Agency on developing phishing susceptibility profiles and anti-phishing tools.

Did you notice who was funding that particular project? More information is provided in this 2012 press release:

North Carolina State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Carnegie Mellon University are each receiving an initial $2.5 million in grant funds from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to stimulate the creation of a more scientific basis for the design and analysis of trusted systems....

It is widely understood that critical cyber systems must inspire trust and confidence, protect the privacy and integrity of data resources, and perform reliably.

So, on the one hand, the NSA is working on programs to advance online security science.

On the other hand, the NSA is working on programs that break that same security science.

Now do you see why I'm not worried about a vast government conspiracy in which multiple agencies gang up on the people? Even a single agency can find itself at cross purposes with itself.

Can't rush this

I was visiting a website - I won't link to it here - that included the following text on one of its pages.

We are currently creating content for this section. In order to be able to keep up with our high standards of service, we need a little more time.

The page had a 2009 copyright notice.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

(empo-utoobd) YouTube customer service has evolved...slightly...since my account was permanently disabled in 2009

For those of you who missed the original story, a quick recap. Back in 2009, I logged into my Empoprises YouTube account one day and found that it had been "permanently disabled." When I sought more information from Google, I received a canned message with the following information:

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

In other words, your account has been suspended, and we can't tell you why. I awarded a "Customer Service Darwin Award" to Google for that one.

That was several years ago, and the permanent disabling of my YouTube account continues to this day - something that I've discussed in the empo-utoobd post series.

However, a few days ago, I tried my usual couple of times a year login to YouTube - something that was again denied - and noticed a new button that allowed you to appeal your suspension. I clicked it, and a day ago I actually received a response, and finally learned why my YouTube account had been suspended all those years ago.

Hi there,

This account was found in Violation of TOU #4 Section H:

"You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, "robots," "spiders," or "offline readers," that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser. Notwithstanding the foregoing, YouTube grants the operators of public search engines permission to use spiders to copy materials from the site for the sole purpose of and solely to the extent necessary for creating publicly available searchable indices of the materials, but not caches or archives of such materials. YouTube reserves the right to revoke these exceptions either generally or in specific cases. You agree not to collect or harvest any personally identifiable information, including account names, from the Service, nor to use the communication systems provided by the Service (e.g., comments, email) for any commercial solicitation purposes. You agree not to solicit, for commercial purposes, any users of the Service with respect to their Content."

The YouTube Team

So apparently back in 2009, I launched some sort of automated spider that retrieved tons of data from YouTube. This was news to me, as I noted in my reply to Google:

Well, now it's good to know after all these years why my YouTube account was shut down. When I first inquired about this, I simply received an automated message to read the Terms of Service.

Unfortunately, there's only one teeny tiny issue - I've never used any automated system to access YouTube. And no, I'm not saying this in a Ryan Braun way - I really haven't.

Is there any recourse to get my YouTube account reinstated, or am I presumed guilty of something that I didn't do?

Looking forward to your reply.

John Bredehoft

If you see this post years after I wrote it, or if you're not a sports enthusiast, I should explain that Ryan Braun is a baseball player who vehemently denied for 18+ months that he violated baseball's drug policy - until yesterday, when he suddenly admitted that he had violated baseball's drug policy. I wanted to make the point that I'm not going to subsequently admit to using some type of automated spider, especially since any attempt of mine to prove that I could even launch an automated spider would be a laughable failure. No, I am not a script kiddie.

As I promised back in 2009, I'll provide any updates on my personal situation. Either this thing is getting very close to being successfully resolved, or it's not.

Friday, July 19, 2013

What about Bob's kitchen cabinet?

Businesspeople often seek advice - sometimes from people in their industry, sometimes from people in their profession, and sometimes from people specifically outside of their industry/profession.

Which brings me to Bob. Bob is not this person's real name, and in this post I have changed a number of facts to protect Bob's identity (and "Bob," if you ever see this message, you'll realize that I had a lot of fun obscuring those facts). I can honestly tell you, however, that Bob is not a proposal manager and does not work in the biometric industry. Bob is active online, however, and I often encounter Bob on one popular social network.

Many of Bob's posts on this network are public and feature discussions of his train ride to work every day, his observations on living in a small town, and his love of the New York Giants. (As a Redskins fan, I manage to tolerate this.)

However, Bob sometimes posts private messages on this network. I don't know how many people receive these messages, but for some inexplicable reason I happen to be one of them. Bob uses these private messages to solicit business advice. For example, Bob may ask a question such as the following:

I'm preparing a draft of an article to submit to a publication in my industry. Three people will be listed as authors of this article. Are there any guidelines regarding which of the authors should be listed first?

Since Bob is probably about ten years old than I am, he understands that private messages are never private, so he doesn't give specific details about the situations (and no, the situation above is NOT one of Bob's situations). However, he does use the private nature of the messages to solicit advice from people that he trusts.

Obviously, you don't need to use a social network to obtain such advice (although a social network admittedly increases the number of people whom you can solicit for advice). Back in the 1970s, people would actually meet with informal advisors face to face.

Since I recently discussed Presidents Truman and Hoover, I might as well bring President Ford into the equation. Ford was a President who often sought the advice of a "kitchen cabinet," including people such as former Nixon adviser Bryce Harlow. In 1975, it was Harlow who bluntly told Ford that the infighting in his Administration had the appearance of "internal anarchy":

Bryce Harlow, a former Nixon adviser, lobbyist and outside adviser to the president, noted the appearance of “internal anarchy” among the Nixon holdovers at the White House and the cabinet, particularly among Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and CIA Director William Colby.

Harlow advised Ford to fire all of them. Ford didn't quite go that far, but by the time he was done, Colby had been replaced by George H.W. Bush, Schlesinger had been replaced by Don Rumsfeld, Kissinger had lost one of his two positions, and Nelson Rockefeller had publicly announced that he would not be a candidate for Vice President in 1976. While some insiders such as Rumsfeld (and Dick Cheney, who became Chief of Staff when Rumsfeld moved) certainly shaped the progress of the changes, it took the outsider Harlow to press Ford into taking action.

Something similar happened several years later, when President Carter, reluctant to give yet another speech on energy, called upon outside advisors:

For more than a week, a veil of secrecy enveloped the proceedings. Dozens of prominent Americans -- members of Congress, governors, labor leaders, academics and clergy -- were summoned to the mountaintop retreat [Camp David] to confer with the beleaguered president. Sitting on the floor taking notes, Carter listened to criticism, much of it scathing, of him and his White House.

Afterwards, Carter, like Ford, was moved to act. But Carter's actions were more dramatic than Ford's.

On July 17, he asked his entire cabinet for their resignations, ultimately accepting those of five who had clashed with the White House the most, including Energy Secretary James Schlesinger and Health, Education and Welfare chief Joseph Califano.

Oddly enough, James Schlesinger lost his job in both Ford's shakeup and Carter's shakeup. No wonder the two Presidents and political enemies became friends after 1980 - they probably regaled themselves with Schlesinger stories.

Returning to my friend Bob, he's never asked his online "kitchen cabinet" for advice about firing someone. But you never know what will happen in the future.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The new guy at the helm - Truman reaches out to Hoover over the objections of his staff

When a company suddenly has a new leader, the new person is usually surrounded by a staff that was appointed by the old leader.

This is often the case with a President of the United States who comes into office after the death of his predecessor. Even after Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale upgraded the workings of the office of the Vice President, there has been tension between the Vice President and the President's direct staff - tension that does not disappear when the President suddenly dies, and the Vice President suddenly has the old President's staff trying to tell him what to do.

Attempts by the Roosevelt staff to control Harry Truman didn't work with Truman.

Of all of the accessions to office due to the death of a President, the accession of Truman certainly had the possibility for the most chaos. Truman had only been Vice President for about three months, whereas Roosevelt (and many of his people) had been in office for over twelve years. Garner, Wallace - what's the name of the new Vice President again? The fact that Truman became President while the country was embroiled in a multi-continental war didn't help things, even though Truman's claim to fame at that point had been his work as a Senator to cut down on wartime fraud and waste.

As I mentioned previously, Carter and Mondale significantly upgraded the office of the Vice President, ensuring that the Vice President was kept in the loop on all Presidential decisions and critical events. That was clearly not the case in 1945, when Truman didn't learn about the Manhattan Project until after he became President. (Senator Truman almost learned about the project in 1943, when he became suspicious about a plant in Minneapolis; however, Secretary of War Stimson told the Senator to butt out.)

By May, Truman was beginning to turn his attention to postwar Europe. It was an important topic, since the activities after World War I pretty much led to World War II. Truman didn't want to blow it again, and one of his concerns was the need to feed people across war-torn Europe. Truman determined that he, as President, needed to consult with an expert on this topic.

Unfortunately for Truman, that expert happened to be a gentleman named Herbert Hoover - someone so disliked by Roosevelt and his staffers that he had effectively been blackballed from the White House since 1933. (Contrast this with today, when President Obama has appeared with two Presidents Bush over the last several weeks.)

Since Truman didn't necessarily trust his staff, he wrote Hoover himself, in a handwritten letter:

The White House
May 24 '45

/s/My dear Mr. President: --

If you should be in Washington, I would be most happy to talk over the European food situation with you.

Also it would be a pleasure to me to become acquainted with you.

Most sincerely

Truman aide Eben Ayers described what happened next:

The president said he was going to tell us of something he had done last night on his own -- and we might all throw bricks at him. He said he was in the House, studying the food situation the European food situation -- and he decided to write a note to Herbert Hoover. So he said he wrote one out himself, in longhand, signed it, and mailed it, suggesting he would be glad to see and talk to him sometime.

Steve Early seemed a little upset. He went on to say that during the Roosevelt term Hoover never came to the White House to pay his respects, that he came into and left Washington without ever doing it. He said he, himself, had passed word to Hoover suggesting he come in but he never had done it. None of the others commented on the president's action. Early suggested that perhaps the president might do the same with Landon, defeated Republican candidate in 1936, and Governor Dewey, last year's defeated candidate. The president indicated he might.

Early resigned a few days later (although he would work for Truman in the future). Truman himself reaped the benefit of Hoover's advice and experience on food relief, and many other topics besides. And Boulder Dam's name was changed back to Hoover Dam - while the "do-nothing Congress" initiated the action, Truman signed the resulting bill.

Do you want people to love your brand? In some cases, you need to seek out the boozers and the potheads

If a company and/or brand is perceived as a distant entity, then you may not be all that motivated to buy from that company/brand. But if the company/brand is perceived more positively, then you'll want to get the toilet tissue that Mr. Whipple squeezes.

Of course, if the company/brand makes extensive use of the word "friend," then you may have even warmer feelings toward it.

One industry that frequently uses the word "friend" is the social media industry - a point explored in Loren Feldman's "#SoMe" film (a film that I have previously reviewed). This industry has certainly changed the way that we use the word "friend," and it's undeniable that there are some people who are attached to social media services, and there are some people who are EXTREMELY attached to social media services - despite the fact that some uses of social media services are demonstrably anti-social (as I've previously noted).

So, who will be attracted to social media services, and who will not be attracted?

Four people from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Texas State University explored this question in a paper entitled Loneliness, anxiousness, and substance use as predictors of Facebook use. From the abstract:

This study investigates the relationships between loneliness, anxiousness, alcohol, and marijuana use in the prediction of freshman college students’ connections with others on the social network site Facebook as well as their emotional connectedness to Facebook.

What did they find?

Results showed that anxiousness, alcohol use, and marijuana use predicted emotional attachment to Facebook. Additionally, loneliness and anxiousness, but not alcohol or marijuana use, predicted individuals’ connections with others using Facebook.

Now this probably wouldn't hold true for all industries - I doubt that heavy alcohol users are more inclined to buy Charmin bathroom tissue, although it's probable that marijuana users are more inclined to buy Hostess Twinkies. And there are probably other factors that can be used to predict emotional attachment to Facebook, or to others on Facebook. And the study in question focused upon college freshmen; I doubt those results can be extrapolated to the general population. (I can't picture a 70 year old acid casualty suddenly saying, "I'll open a Facebook account!")

However, this limited study does illustrate that seemingly unrelated factors can be used to predict the success of a product. And since the concept of Facebook originated in a college environment, the results certainly merit interest.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When ads are not complementary to the content

In the ideal world, ads would be so attuned to the material that you are reading, and to your own needs, that you would barely notice them - or, better yet, you would welcome them.

For example, let's say that I'm someone who travels to Vegas a lot, and the National Security Agency - I mean Google - knows this. So, as I'm reading an online article entitled "Things to Do in Las Vegas This Weekend," a Megabus ad appears to the side of the article. As I read the article, I see that there are exciting things to do in Vegas, so I immediately click on the Megabus ad and book my reservation.

We do not live in the ideal world. Often ads, rather than being complementary to the content that you have selected, appear to be in opposition. Using the example above, perhaps my access to the Vegas information would be completely blocked by a singles dating service ad. (I am married.)

Larry Rosenthal recently shared a link to a interview with LinkedIn's Deep Nishar. Some day I may discuss the content of that interview, but for now I'm more inclined to talk about the ad that blocked access to part of the article.

And now, this wasn't one of those "you can continue reading the rest of the article if you watch this short ad for a singles site." It was worse.

As it turned out, the ad apparently removed itself a few minutes later, but by that time I had nearly completed writing this post.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Forget citizen journalists - we now have citizen police

As more and more information becomes publicly accessible online, new capabilities become possible. Since I am involved in the biometric industry, I learned (via findBIOMETRICS) of a July 10 press release:

JailBase ( has developed a mobile app making database searches simpler and easier than ever. Now users armed only with a photo can use facial recognition to query JailBase’s extensive database of mugshots and arrest records and find a match ( The mobile app allows the public to search JailBase's millions of arrest records for people who have been arrested in many counties in the United States. Users can be notified when someone they know is booked in jail again. Recent arrests can also be viewed and filtered by gender, race, location, and date.

The current release supports Android phones and tablets. An iPhone and iPad version is planned for release in the 4th quarter of 2013.

In essence, JailBase is taking advantage of information that is publicly available, and combining it with a facial recognition algorithm. There are all sorts of websites that aggregate mugshot photos from different law enforcement agencies. So now, if you take a photo, a facial recognition algorithm, and access to the Jailbase database, you can see the likelihood of a match.

In theory, this means that "citizen police" can now roam the streets and find bad people.

However, there are two very important cautions to note:

First off, just because a person has been arrested does not mean that the person is guilty of a crime. This is something that Jailbase itself makes clear:

Arrest and booking records simply state who, when and why (if available) someone was arrested or booked. It does not imply guilt. An arrested or booked individual is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. What happens in a court of law (for example, when charges are dropped), is outside the scope of and must be researched independently by the user of the site.

Second, no facial recognition system (or any biometric system) is 100% accurate. I don't know how Jailbase presents its facial recognition results, but generally facial recognition systems present pictures of people who may appear similar to the person being searched. That does not necessarily mean that the first person in the list is the person who was searched. In other words, this guy is not a terrorist.

I have no idea how strongly Jailbase presents these two cautions to its users. And even if Jailbase does an excellent job in presenting these cautions, will the users necessarily heed the cautions? Or will someone go running down the street with his or her Android phone, yelling, "I found Charles Manson! I found Charles Manson!"?

Now you probably have equally similar examples from your own industry, in which publicly available information can be used intelligently by the public - or can be used stupidly by the public.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The flip side of selective "living wage" laws

Living wage laws, which mandate wages above the legal minimum wage, are all the rage. Take Washington DC, where a minimum wage law has passed a local legislative hurdle:

Walmart’s efforts Tuesday to deter Washington D.C’s city council from passing a bill that would require certain large retailers to pay their employees at least $12.50 — a significant bump above the city’s minimum wage of $8.25 — didn’t work. Despite the big box company telling lawmakers it’d scrap plans for three stores in the area and take a close look at the three already underway, council members passed the bill by a vote of 8 to 5 yesterday.

Note that the bill only applies to CERTAIN retailers. And no, the city council didn't write a rule that only applied to companies that happen to be based in Bentonville, Arkansas and were founded by people whose last names begin with the letter W. But clearly, some companies are subject to the living wage rule, while some are not:

[A]ny new retail outlet affiliated with a parent company having yearly revenue of $1 billion or more would be subject to the wage requirement, regardless of the size of the store. A draft report mentions Apple and Nike as among the retailers that might be affected. Franchisees and subcontractors, however, would be exempt.

So the easy workaround is for the big companies to pull out and, in some instances, get small businesses to front for them. Thus, an Apple Store would pull out, and a small "DC Insanely Great" store, with a minority investment from Braeburn Capital, would replace it. The businesses of Washington DC, with extensive experience in small business set-asides, can play the game better than anybody. But it probably wouldn't work with a Walmart.

Despite these potential workarounds, some business organizations object to the selective nature of the bill, including Barbara Lang of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce:

Lang said she is especially concerned because the bill would “pit small businesses against large businesses” in the competition for employees. A more worthwhile debate, she said, would consider the merits of raising the District’s minimum wage. “Let’s have that discussion and that debate, rather than be discriminatory toward one part of the business community,” she said.

If you think about it, proponents of a living wage emphasize that such a wage is necessary for someone to survive.

Which leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that the D.C. City Council has determined that Walmart workers deserve to live, while people who work at small independent organic soul food restaurants deserve to die.

And once people realize this, they will decry the efforts of the evil big box firms that are stealing employees from smaller companies. And activists will demand that the city mandate a cap on the wages that big box firms pay, in order to protect the small business owners.

In truth, I'm lying. No such effort will happen, because small independent organic soul food restaurants cannot hire lobbyists. Big businesses can, and big unions can, but small businesses don't have the bucks.

So the small business employees won't get a living wage because they don't deserve it, and (if Walmart proceeds with its threat) big business employees won't get a living wage because there won't be any big businesses in DC. And Walmart could proceed with its threat; after all, Cracker Barrel still refuses to establish restaurants in California and Nevada.

To be continued.

If you're interested in following topics, don't follow people (or, why Shimrit Ben-Yair is not a bad person)

It sounded so innocuous when Google's Shimrit Ben-Yair announced a change to Google+:

Many of the best photos, articles and videos we find online are the ones recommended by friends. So we're making it easier to discover these recommendations in your Google+ stream. Starting today:

- We'll occasionally highlight posts that were +1'd by people in your circles
- And if you +1 a post, we may highlight it to your friends as well

Ben-Yair continued with various tips regarding how to change your Google+ settings if you don't like this feature.

And some people definitely don't like this feature - for two reasons.

First, it exposes people to the things that you like - I mean, +1. (I'm a Facebook user also.) The fear here is that someone will suddenly discover your admiration for Barry Manilow. Well, personally this isn't that much of an issue. Once I +1'ed a Barry Manilow item on Google+, my love for Barry has become part of the public record. If Google+ has made it easier for my friends to discover this, is it really a problem?

But there's the second thing - you are exposed to the things that other people like. And this really bugs some people. For example, one of my online friends presumably follows me on Google+ for my expert analysis on business topics. I suspect that this person was extremely displeased when the person's stream contained an item about Robert Sacre re-signing (as opposed to resigning) with the Lakers - an item that I had +1'ed.

Actually, I don't suspect the person was displeased - I KNOW that person was displeased.

+John E. Bredehoft Please turn off your out-going plus notifications. Here's how:

Psst - just between us, I reacted to this request to turn off my out-going plus notifications about as well as I do to any "You're doing it wrong" posts. I did, however, restrain myself from liking 100 Barry Manilow items just because.

And now everyone is demanding that Google+ change its behavior. But there's a much simpler way to accomplish the same thing, without requiring a Google code change and without requiring you to change your Google+ settings. And this simple solution is well-known; heck, even I knew about it way back in 2009.

The solution? Don't follow me.

Hear me out - or, better still, here's some of what I wrote back in 2009, when FriendFeed was king and Google+ didn't even exist. First, I start by talking about the problem with following people:

Twitter's content-searching capabilities are admittedly atrocious, but one thing that is really easy to do in Twitter is to follow people. And when you follow people, you get the good with the bad. Perhaps you follow someone on Twitter because they posted an inspiration quote...and then their next 10 tweets are of the "make money fast" variety.

Or perhaps someone followed my Twitter account because they saw a tweet that dealt with feature creep. Little did that poor person know that I also tweet about my college radio experiences, the surviving Gibb brothers, and my aging phone.

Yes, this was 2009, back when I still had the Motorola Q. But you probably don't care about that. So what do you do?

Or perhaps there's a better way - follow by topic rather than person. That way, if you're interested in requirements management, you can see what people said about that specific topic, and ignoring all of their LOLcats stuff. FriendFeed now supports topic searching capabilities.

And now, nearly four years later, Google+ supports topic searching capabilities also. Let's say that you like my posts about Slim Whitman, but don't like anything else that I write. Why not just perform the "Slim Whitman" search in Google+? You can tailor the search to your needs; for example, you can just see what people in your circles are saying about Slim Whitman.

Follow topics, not people, and then you won't have to worry about people who write all sorts of stuff.

Now if you see a share of this post on Google+, don't forget to +1 it...

Seven things I like about B.W. Cooper Tea

Because of my work as an Empoprises blogger for you, I often find myself in extremely upscale and exclusive establishments. So while Proposal Guy Jon finds himself at Pall Mall, I find myself at...7-Eleven.

Or anywhere where I can find unsweetened iced tea at a good price. Yes, unsweetened. I know that I have multiple family connections to the South, but I'm an unsweetened tea drinker, thank you very much.

Of course, the rage for iced tea was sparked by another upscale establishment, an Irish-themed group of dining locations known as McDonald's. When McDonald's priced any size of sweet tea, and eventually any size of many cold drinks, at a $1 price, other upscale dining establishments were forced to follow suit. Gone were the days of "If you have to ask the price of a Big Gulp, you probably can't afford it." Now, everyone can afford it.

But 7-Eleven is primarily known for its sweetened sodas. Enter B.W. Cooper:


B.W. Cooper's is served in many fine dining, quick serve, and fast food restaurants. It's also a recommended item at 7-Eleven and other convenience stores.
Our real tea concentrates are created using proprietary blending and extraction processes. We offer six special blends of classic iced tea:

Organic, Unsweetened:
• USDA Certified Organic
• Real brewed tea
• No preservatives
• No artificial flavors or colors

• Real brewed tea
• No sweetener

Pomegranate Tea
• Real brewed tea
• Sweetened
• Natural pomegranate, acai & berry flavors

Half & Half Lemonade Tea
• A blend of iced tea and lemonade
• Half unsweetened tea
• Half sweetened lemonade

• Real brewed tea
• Classic sweet tea

Did you catch it? If you didn't, look again. B.W. Cooper's six special blends of classic iced tea are organic unsweetened, unsweetened, pomegranate, half & half lemonade tea, and the trendy sweet tea. Yup, only five.

Note that B.W. Cooper is a RECOMMENDED item at 7-Eleven, not a mandatory item. Most 7-Elevens don't appear to carry it - I've only found two that do. And these two 7-Elevens only carry two of the five/six blends - organic unsweetened, and sweet. Needless to say, I've only tried the organic unsweetened - and I like it.

And yes, it's organic. Organic food has been discussed at length by the leading scientific publication Cracked, which had this (among other things) to say about organic stuff:

A common myth about organic food is that, in your purchases, you are putting another dollar in the pockets of a humble, hard-working farmer who pushes a wheelbarrow in cute straw hats. You probably don't think about putting another dollar in the pocket of a big CEO who eats panda steaks for dinner and swims in a pool that pumps its water direct from a melting polar ice cap.

Organic food is big business. Kraft, Coke, Pepsi, Heinz, Kellogg's, Hershey Foods and General Mills, among others, own tons of popular organic product lines, like Naked Juice, Kashi, Seeds of Change and Dagoba. And with big grocers and retailers like Wal-Mart now pushing organic goods, too, you can be confident that much of the money you spend on green-friendly goods will be distributed amongst those who hope someday to be able to buy you and your family as servants.

(Postscript to those who actually read my post titles - yes, I know that there is a difference between 7 and 1 - or really 0, since I didn't really name a particular thing that I liked. But all the cool people say that list posts drive inordinate amounts of traffic (I saw it in an infographic), so I thought I'd be trendy. I just never got around to constructing the list itself.)

(Another postscript to those who actually read my postscripts - but did you notice that I am posting this item on a 7-Eleven drink product on July 11? So I guess that means I'll have to go get a slurpee. An organic slurpee.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

So I've switched my enterprise RSS feed reader from IE to Outlook

With the anticipated demise of Google Reader, I needed a way to read my work-related RSS feeds. While Feedly may be the choice for all the cool kids, it often will not work for enterprise use. didn't work that well for me either. Finally, with only a few days to go before Google Reader started pining for the fjords, I adopted Internet Explorer as my enterprise RSS reader.

No, Internet Explorer is not as full featured as Google Reader. And no, I am not able to access my Internet Explorer RSS feeds from any device, in any location. But it allows me to keep up with my forensic, public safety, and proposal-related feeds - something that Feedly and Google can't do.

Several days into my new RSS feeding system, I was checking my work e-mail. It's probably no surprise to you that an enterprise that has standardized on Microsoft Internet Explorer has also standardized on Microsoft Outlook. While reading my e-mail one day, I noticed a folder that I hadn't happen to notice before.

So I tried it out. I exported my feeds from Internet Explorer in OPML format, imported them into Outlook, arranged them in sub-folders as I desired, and then looked to see what I had.

What I had was something that was functionally closer to my Google Reader experience.

One of the things that I liked about Google Reader was the ability to "star" individual entries to retain them. Internet Explorer offered no way to do this. But since Outlook rendered each feed as a folder, and each item in the feed as a "message" within the folder, I could simply delete the messages that I no longer wished to retain, while keeping the remainder.

Of course, this is tied to my Outlook account. However, I may have ways to access these feeds, even if I don't have my work computer, via the magic of OWA (if my company's implementation of OWA supports the "RSS Feeds" folder).

Things are looking up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Following the money - the FBI's Terrorist Financing Operations Section

When a organization launches a major initiative, it often takes money to launch that initiative. This rule applies whether you're talking about a company launching a social media campaign, or a terrorist group launching an attack. In its post-9/11 goal of fighting terrorism, the FBI often must track the latter, which is where its Terrorist Financing Operations Section comes into play. A story about the TFOS can be found here.

Within the FBI, TFOS is responsible for following the money, providing financial expertise on our terrorism investigations, and centralizing efforts to identity extremists and shut down terrorism financing in specific cases. More recently, TFOS has adopted a broader strategy to identity, disrupt, and dismantle all terrorist-related financial and fundraising activities. A key element is using financial intelligence to help identify previously unknown terrorist cells, recognize potential terrorist activity/planning, and develop a comprehensive threat picture.

But as part of its story, the FBI provided some numbers that show just how easy it is to commit a terrorist act.

The dollar amounts can be small—for example, the Oklahoma City bombing cost a little over $4,000 to carry out, the attack on the USS Cole about $10,000, and the London subway bombings around $14,000.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The silly season of social media adoption - corporate use of...Snapchat?

I enjoy reading the Facebook page for the Condescending Corporate Brand Page, and this morning they came up with the ideal parody of brand me-tooism.

Proving that we're a proper ‎#cool brand at this social media can follow us on Twitter too!

Essentially it'll be a waste of time - because all we'll do is link all of the posts from this very ‎#Facebook page to tweet out, negating the need to actually follow it. Just to be even more annoying, all of the tweets will be cut off halfway through a sentence finishing with an '' link because Facebook is completely different to ‎#Twitter. Naturally, our agency has not realised this of course! (please RT)

In the comments, I said that they hadn't gone far enough:

I'm sorry, but if you're not on Pinterest, you don't exist. Or better yet, get on that service that sends a message and immediately erases it - now that's a service that a brand can really adopt!

At the time I wrote this comment, I had forgotten the name of said service, which is understandable since I am not in the service's target market. But the service's name is Snapchat, and I began wondering to myself - has any social media expert seriously recommended that a business use Snapchat for promotional purposes? In my mind, use of Snapchat by a corporation would seem to be the stupidest move whatsoever, since normally corporations want consumers to RETAIN their marketing material.

So, naturally, a company HAS chosen to use Snapchat for promotional purposes. The social media experts at Martin-Wilbourn Partners linked to a story in Mashable about a promotion from a frozen yogurt chain called 16 Handles. (Yes, this oh-so-trendy Snapchat-using company has appropriated its name from a 60-plus year old ice cream company.)

Anyway, Mashable describes how 16 Handles used Snapchat in its promotion:

The program works like this: If you snap a pic of you or your friends at a 16Handles location tasting one of their flavors, you can send it to Love16Handles on Snapchat. In return, you'll get a coupon for anywhere from 16% to 100% off on your purchase. You have 10 seconds to let the cashier scan the coupon, though.

This promotion apparently occurred in January - and, to be fair, Mashable noted that this promotion was an experiment. From what I can tell, the experiment failed - I was unable to find any mention of the promotion today on 16 Handles' Facebook page. But it certainly created a buzz back in January, when community manager Adam Britten was asked about the success of the promotion.

One of our goals for this was exposure, so we are happy with the coverage this promo has received (in publications such as Ad Age and Mashable). As far as actual numbers go from the campaign, it’s harder to say, since this period is serving as a litmus test for us, only running at six of our stores.

So let's recap. 16 Handles runs a promotion in January using the current cool trendy service. All of the social media publications fall all over themselves talking about it, and social media experts begin recommending the use of Snapchat for corporation promotions. Meanwhile, the company that originally pulled the stunt has long since moved on, seeking the next buzz.

So obviously, someone at the State Department will decide that this is more cost-effective than their other promotional efforts.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Andreas Schou on the dangers of a corporate short-term focus

All companies, but especially public companies, are measured on a quarterly basis. If a public company loses money in a particular quarter, its stock gets trashed. If a public company doesn't make as much money in a quarter as the analysts believe it will make, the stock gets trashed.

Performance is always based upon the reward structure. If I was paid based upon the number of proposals that I wrote, I'd be writing proposals day and night whether the customer bought anything or not. When executives at public companies are paid based upon quarterly results, their entire focus goes toward making the quarterly numbers as positive as possible.

How can they do that? Andreas Schou has described how one company did it:

(1) It shifted its pension fund into a higher risk category in exchange for higher returns. It funded its pensions accordingly. This freed up a bunch of cash. Then it paid out the cash it saved by risking the pension fund out in dividends.

(2) Around 1995, [the company] substantially cut its R&D costs. It then paid out the money it saved in dividends.

(3) The same year, it spun off [a subsidiary] as a hypothetically independent company....In reality, however, it only manufactured parts for [the company and its large competitors, who] used it as a place to stash their losses. Because of the exclusive relationship, the large...companies could simply demand particular prices and have those demands granted.

(4) Then, in order to raise the stock price -- the metric by which the CEO was compensated -- [the company] started issuing a large number of bonds, then conducted a series of share repurchases. Many of those bonds were purchased by the pension fund through an agreement between [the company and its union].

So, in the 1990s, the quarterly numbers of the company looked pretty good, but things were clearly not good a little over a decade later, when the company - General Motors - declared bankruptcy.

Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Question authority - just create your own standards

I am incensed.

I am incensed that recent movie reviews from Frank Angelone, Ron Watson, and myself are not on the home page of the Rotten Tomatoes website - or, for that matter, any other page at the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Oh, and the movie that all three of us reviewed isn't there either.

So I'm going to start my own movie review website and call it Rotten Kumquats or Rotten Watermelons or something. And it will have the movie reviews that I want to see. (Since I rarely watch movies, it will be a relatively small list of reviews.)

And then I'm going to start a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that includes Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode, and a Baseball Hall of Fame that includes Pete Rose, and a Greatest Presidents of All Time site that features Gerald Ford. ("A Mayaguez WIN is a loss for swine flu.")

Well, why not? As long as I don't infringe on the trademarks of any existing hall or fame or other authority, I can declare anything I want to declare.

And before you say, "But John, you can't set up your own rock and roll hall of fame!" I ask you - why not? After all, the people who started the famous rock and roll hall of fame were just that - people. Although their names - Ahmet Ertegun, Jann Wenner, Allen Grubman, Jon Landau, Seymour Stein, Bob Krasnow, and Suzan Evans - are certainly famous, you could make an equally valid argument that a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should have instead been started by Dick Clark, or Peter Grant, or John Lydon, or Daniel Miller, or one of Brian Wilson's former psychiatrists.

I've previously talked about how standards are developed. Basically, someone stands in the middle of the room and yells, "This is a standard!" If they yell loudly enough, then everyone else believes them and the thing becomes a standard. Ahmet Ertegun, Jann Wenner, et al could certainly yell loudly enough, and you'd think that if Google and Facebook agreed on something, they'd be yelling loudly enough.

Just remember that (outside of religion) there is nothing that is an unchangeable standard. If enough people think Snopes is unreliable, or that is inaccurate, then some other sources will arise.

For example, I've already talked about Linus Pauling and quasicrystals. Pauling famously said, "There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists." That was the standard of knowledge at the time. A couple of decades later, Dan Shechtman won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in quasicrystals. Obviously the standard had changed.

You see this in politics all the time. When the U.S. Constitution was first adopted, slavery was perfectly legal; there was no requirement that women (or men) be allowed to vote for U.S. Senators; and there was no such thing as "freedom of speech." That's right - the reason that we talk about the First Amendment (or any amendment) is because the amendments were added to the Constitution later. Before any amendments were adopted, it was perfectly legal at the Federal level to deny someone freedom of speech, freedom of religion, a right to bear arms, or many other things. The standard changed.

And as long as we're speaking about movies, let's just look at the changes in moviemaking in the United States. In the 1930s, there was a standard for the making of motion pictures - the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (the Hays Code). That code - the standard of its day - was so restrictive in some respects that even Saudi Arabia wouldn't adopt it today. Saudi Arabia in particular would have a problem with this little part of the Hays Code:

VIII. Religion
1. No film or episode may throw ridicule on any religious faith.

2. Ministers of religion in their character as ministers of religion should not be used as comic characters or as villains.

3. Ceremonies of any definite religion should be carefully and respectfully handled.

Let's just say that Saudi Arabia would have no problem in applying these standards to one particular religion. For the other religions? Forget about it.

And my mention of Saudi Arabia reminds us that there are such things as "community standards," and that standards could differ from community to community. Appropriate behavior for two twenty-something female software engineers in San Francisco, California might be entirely unappropriate for two sixty-something housewives in Mecca, Saudi Arabia - and vice versa. (Despite all of the talk in the United States about how love should not be constrained by law, the two women in Saudi Arabia are free to marry the same man; the two women in San Francisco are legally prohibited from doing so.)

Of course, this multiplicity of standards makes regular life complicated. We can't say that Wikipedia is the authoritative encyclopedia, Snopes is the authoritative fact-checker, Microsoft is the authoritative operating system provider, or that the Peace and Freedom Party is the one true political party. We have to decide what sources we deem to be reliable. We have to create our own standards.

And that can be fun.

"Laser like purpose" and the State Department - #SoMe and #MIPS are everywhere

Yes, I'm bumping my own post from earlier today. But the reasons are understandable.

A few hours ago, I posted my review of the Loren Feldman film "#SoMe." To put the film in context, I provided a quote from Loren Feldman's business website:

We help companies to develop sound digital strategies designed to have laser like purpose designed to reach not millions of people, but very specific people. Not just pandering to social media “fans” or “followers” who mean nothing to your business.

Now you would think that this is obvious, and that anyone spending on social media would want to see a positive return on investment. But it's all too easy to find examples of the media-induced psychosis that Larry Rosenthal is fond of discussing.

From the Washington Examiner:

State Department officials spent $630,000 to get more Facebook "likes"....

The department's Bureau of International Information Programs spent the money to increase its "likes" count between 2011 and March 2013.

Now in some respects this is understandable. Part of the job of the U.S. State Department is to represent the views of the United States to the rest of the world, so it's understandable that the department would spend something on this. But after people in the State Department itself started to complain about buying Facebook likes, an audit was conducted.

The spending increased the bureau's English-language Facebook page likes from 100,000 to more than 2 million and to 450,000 on Facebook's foreign-language pages.

Effective, right? Well, not really.

Despite the surge in likes, the IG said the effort failed to reach the bureau's target audience, which is largely older and more influential than the people liking its pages.

Of all the social media services, I instinctively believe that Facebook is the one that most closely mirrors the general population, at least in this country. The only problem is that you don't want to reach the general population - you want to reach the influcers within the population. When many people in the general U.S. population don't really know why we're celebrating a holiday tomorrow, the targeting of a general audience doesn't seem to be a very effective method. And it wasn't:

Only about 2 percent of fans actually engage with the pages by liking, sharing or commenting.

Just to illustrate how you need to find a target audience, take a look at something that Steven Streight joked on Facebook yesterday:

The Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi is being rejected by Egyptian citizens. If Morsi doesn't resign tonight, they may erupt into a civil war backed by the military. I guess he should have stayed in his band The Smiths.

When I saw this, I laughed and replied that if I see a double decker bus in Tahrir Square, I'll burst out laughing.

But I suspect that my reaction was in the minority. Some segment of Facebook's population probably believes that Egypt's leader used to be the lead singer of the Smiths, and some segment of Facebook's population has probably never heard of the Smiths, and now thinks that Will Smith is the leader of Egypt.

Hint: people who can't tell the difference between the leader of Egypt and an English (or American) musician are not the people who should be influenced on foreign policy issues.

I await your asynchronous reaction to my review of the Loren Feldman film "#SoMe"

Over the last three days, I've shared my thoughts on three posts that I wrote between 2005 and 2012. These posts were not randomly chosen, however; all three of the original posts include the use of the word "asynchronous" in some way, shape, or form. While the word "asynchronous" has a specific technological meaning, it also has the general definition "not occurring at the same time." While some of my posts note the advantages of asynchronous communication, I've never really discussed the drawbacks - the chief of which is that when you're communicating asynchronously, you're all alone.

Which brings us to Loren Feldman's recently-released film "#SoMe." Excuse me for a moment:


OK, disclosure out of the way.

Feldman, for those who don't know, makes his living providing marketing advice to companies small and large, often getting the principals of the companies to honestly tell their story. Not in an effort to accumulate the most likes or viral success or mentions in Mashable, but to achieve something quite different:

We help companies to develop sound digital strategies designed to have laser like purpose designed to reach not millions of people, but very specific people. Not just pandering to social media “fans” or “followers” who mean nothing to your business.

It's fair to say that there are other social media advisers who do not share Feldman's views. Which explains Feldman's other activity - the one for which he is known among many.

He performs puppet shows.

For example, here's how Feldman covered the removal of Shel Israel from the FastCompany show with Robert Scoble. I covered the same story in a blog post. You can see which of these is more entertaining - well, unless you are entertained by seeing Robert Scoble argue with people in post comments.

Since that time, the Shel puppet (now referred to as "Shel Puppet," with no explicit reference to a particular living person) has achieved a life of his own. (I compare it to the way that the Doonesbury character "Duke" eventually diverged from the real-life model of Hunter S. Thompson, or how Will Ferrell's portrayal of Alex Trebek has - we hope - diverged from the real Mr. Trebek.) After all of these years, Loren Feldman and Shel Puppet have emerged as friends, bound together by their mutual interests.

And that is where Loren's film "#SoMe" begins.

The film itself is a mixture between a story and a documentary. The story part concentrates on the friendship between Loren and Shel Puppet, and Shel's perception of the friendship. The documentary portion includes interviews with people that Loren Feldman has known over the years - Jason Calacanis, Sarah Lacy, Paul Carr, and a host of others - and these people take the time to share their own thoughts on social media, both good and bad. (And yes, the word "asynchronous" appears in at least one of the interviews.) As the story advances, the story and the documentary intertwine with each other, until at one point, the people in the documentary are commenting on the story. The results are both entertaining AND thought-provoking; as Frank Angelone stated in his own review of #SoMe:

After watching, you truly stop and think about the benefits of social media, but whether or not we’re all going a little too out of control with it.

Yes, the movie is definitely entertaining. I don't want to give away the plot, but it's a story that even Robert Scoble would enjoy - actually, Robert Scoble would probably especially enjoy the plot. At the same time, the story is thought-provoking, not only because of the statements of Calacanis and others, but also because of what goes on in the story. As I said before, Feldman certainly knows how to tell a story, and has the ability to make us care about a puppet's feelings. (This is not the first time this has happened; think of Kermit.)

Oh, and since much of the movie is set in Los Angeles, there are a lot of driving scenes - unfortunately, none in Pomona.

However, it's difficult to describe the movie in a review - primarily because I'd have to give a lot of the plot away. And the few previews that are floating around (including the one below) don't capture the full force of the movie either. I strongly encourage you to see the movie yourself. More information is available at

My 2012 thoughts on meetings

OK, now I'm looking back to a post in this very blog itself, the Empoprise-BI business blog. This is part of a post about meetings that I wrote on April 17, 2012.

In some cases, a meeting is beneficial to the asynchronous communication methods that I prefer. For example, my company has a particular process that requires a meeting. Several people thought the the subject in question was so simple that the decision could be made via email, rather than require some high-priced people to stop what they were doing and sit down around a table for an hour. Ten emails later, one participant commented that it would have been more efficient to just have a meeting in this particular case.

And here's one other observation - this one about meeting participants.

I am not the CEO of my company, and many of the decision-making meetings that I've organized over the years have included people who outrank me. And while some companies empower subordinates, most don't. If I work at Microsoft and Steve Ballmer doesn't show up at my meeting, I can't go to him afterwards and say "Steve, here's what we're going to do."

Unless, of course, I'm a developer.

I hope you've enjoyed my recent series of posts looking back at stuff that I've written previously. Notice anything yet?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Back to a Roggin and Simers Squared broadcast from 2007 - static, or Tracy Morgan? You decide.

Yes, we're still plunging back into my blogging archives.

One constant throughout my nearly ten-year blogging career is that I enjoy a typical Southern California commute - in my case, from my home in Ontario to my workplace in Orange County. When you have long commutes to and from work, an operating radio (or, during the last couple of years, access to a phone-powered entertainment source such as Spotify that can be routed through your car speakers) becomes essential.

Back in July 2007, I spent many of my mornings listening to a local sports talk show called Roggin and Simers Squared, and I spent many of my afternoons listening to a local sports talk show that included Petros Papadakis. At lunchtime, I would sometimes listen to a local midday show that featured Steve Hartman. Since 2007, the fortunes of many of these broadcasters have changed - Petros Papdakis is now heard nationally, and Tracy Simers has left radio altogether (and is apparently happy about this). But at that time, all of these people were heard on the same station, which explains my introduction to this post:

[L]et's note that there are a lot of asynchronous communications going around KLAC, where the hosts on one radio show say something about hosts of another radio show, then the hosts on the other radio show do a "Guess what THEY said?!?" routine, ad nauseum.

So apparently the question of radio professionalism has been the subject of one of these debates. The players are Steve Hartman of the Loose Cannons, Petros Papadakis, and T.J. and Tracy Simers.

Now ordinarily, one would expect that such a post would launch into a detailed analysis of what Mr. and Ms. Simers said during my morning commute. But that isn't where this post went.

Fred Roggin was beginning to weigh in on the latter issue when my car radio started broadcasting static. After checking the other stations, I confirmed that KLAC's broadcast wasn't going over the air.

This serves as a reminder - you can get any yahoo (even, for several years, myself) in front of a microphone, but if you don't have the engineers doing their thing, it will all be for naught.

For the next several minutes, the KLAC frequency broadcast nothing but static.

And my post spent several paragraphs discussing the static that I was hearing over the radio. Profound, huh?

Eventually the broadcast returned to the airwaves, but it didn't improve. And it wasn't the fault of Fred Roggin, Tracy Simers, or even T.J. Simers (who can be blamed for everything, presumably). This was the fault of their guest of the morning.

The main point of the interview was to ask Tracy Morgan about his ankle bracelet. It turns out that Morgan is wearing an ankle bracelet due to a previous arrest for drunk driving....

After Roggin and Simers Squared brought up the ankle bracelet, Morgan launched into some cross between a comedy routine, a rant, and a therapy session. After Tracy Morgan stated how funny he was, Tracy Simers made a point of mentioning another comedian (Bill Bellamy) who declared he was funny when he wasn't funny at all.

Morgan didn't take the hint, and continued to declare his wit. My favorite example:


But I redeemed myself at the end of the post by talking about something that I presumably should have been talking about all along - radio professionalism. For those who are not familiar with the three hosts of the old show, let me explain that Fred Roggin is a broadcast professional with decades of radio and television experience; T.J. Simers is a professional journalist with a little bit of radio broadcast experience; and Tracy Simers is a professional accountant whose radio career (since ended) consisted of appearances with her dad T.J.

As T.J. was probably fervently praying for a commercial, he (and his daughter) deferred to Fred to continue with the interview. Fred said nothing.

A few months later, Roggin and Simers Squared was off the air. Since 2007, the morning show has been occupied by Dan Patrick. And Tracy Morgan has appeared as a guest - and he immediately started by talking about farting.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I deem it important to revisit the 2005 "Rearden Commerce Model"

Because it's summer, and because I am approaching the tenth anniversary of my illustrious blogging career, I'm going to spend some time looking back at business topics I've written about over the years. For today's post, I'm revisiting a September 9, 2005 post in the Ontario Technoblog about the Rearden Commerce Model.

I didn't really analyze the model - I pretty much quoted from the company website. (That's What Bloggers Do.) This ends up serving as a historical record, because those pages are long gone. For example, I quoted from the Rearden Commerce Model Solutions Overview:

Simplify Procurement. Enforce Policies. Drive Savings.

Scheduling and purchasing services represents an interruption in an employee’s busy day. All too often, with manual or even first-generation service procurement technologies, researching and arranging services consume an inordinate amount of time. But with the Rearden Commerce solution, complex transactions can be accomplished without disrupting work schedules. Pervasively accessible, intuitive applications that run on top of the Rearden Commerce Platform—such as Rearden EBS and others in development—are the gateway to a world of services and providers....

End users simply schedule and purchase services from any web browser. Procurement professionals provision services in real-time, analyze consolidated spend data from a single Services Console. In fact, the Rearden Commerce Platform and applications benefit everyone in the organization...

The idea of using a web browser to access an enterprise application wasn't exactly novel in 2005, but it wasn't quite (using a Rearden Commerce word) "pervasive" yet.

Needless to say, the discussion had to include a lot of techno-babble.

Platform Components — From the Infrastructure to APIs to Toolkits

An On-Demand infrastructure comprises the hardware and software required to build scalable, high performing, configurable, extensible platform services. The standards-based infrastructure manages the complexities of dealing with scalability, caching, transaction management, asynchronous communication, monitoring, guaranteed delivery, and other challenges.

So what's happened in the last eight years? If you go to the Rearden Commerce website today, it's impossible to find any mention of a "Rearden Commerce Model." Rearden Commerce has re-branded itself, offering a whole new set of applications called "Deem." The closest thing to the old Rearden Commerce Model appears to be deem@work:

It is essential for businesses to manage their cash flow and expenses. Deem@Work is a suite of advanced spend and expense management applications that uses the latest Cloud and Web Services technology to materially lower costs and increase margins. Deem@Work gives business owners and employees discounted prices on everyday necessities, spending analytics, timesaving automation, and the hyper-productive Deem experience.

And all of this is powered by a platform - but now it's the Deem Platform.

Deem is a robust, extensible platform that supports multiple interoperable applications to facilitate a thriving ecosystem of buyers, sellers, and additional partnered development. The Deem platform architecture is strategically layered from data center infrastructure up to the web and mobile applications tier with a service view at each layer for gained business intelligence. This framework allows partners to easily utilize extensive existing development, integrate once to leverage numerous established capabilities, and ultimately avoid massive costs of building their own solutions from scratch.

However, if I may misuse a technical term, the company has apparently purposely pursued a bidirectional divergent strategic anti-focus. The company is apparently still called Rearden Commerce - all of the quotes above are from the Rearden Commerce website - but the company also has a Deem website with non-identical information. And forget about making sense of their press releases, which alternate mentions of "Deem" and "Rearden Commerce" at whim:

Deem™ (formerly Rearden Commerce) today announced a partnership with Microsoft Corp. where Deem will provide local deals and offers to Microsoft for distribution across their online and mobile surfaces including,, MSN, Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps....

About Deem

Deem™ (formerly Rearden Commerce) is the largest and most diverse syndicated commerce network that enables the syndication of highly relevant transactional commerce experiences across any online or mobile surface within consumer and business markets....

Rearden Commerce is headquartered in San Francisco, California....

© 1999–2013 Rearden Commerce, Inc. All rights reserved.