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Archive for January, 2007

Ford

A quick thought while I head off to travel for the next week.

Ford posted a spectacular $12 billion dollar loss. Apparently, the company that jump started mass production with the assembly line is having a difficult time in the cluetrain era. Just 2 cars provide a profit for the company. What this adds up to is a $4400 loss per vehicle. Now this might work if they’re using the PlayStation/Xbox business model but last I checked Ford doesn’t have anything worth buying after you purchase a vehicle. Nothing that’s the equivalent of Halo.

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I read a lot of books. I usually have a couple going at once which my wife doesn’t quite understand. I just find it easier to have books in location where I read the most (one by my bed, another to read at lunch, etc.) without having to remember to carry one around…hence my desire for ebooks and an ebook reading device that I can tote with me at all times. Anyway, with all these books, most of which are from the local library, it can be difficult to remember what I have and haven’t read.

A few weeks ago I was looking into a software solution that would solve this problem. I tried Bookpedia and researched Delicious Library but decided that having this information stored on one computer wasn’t the way I wanted to go. I spend half my life on the internet and you never know when you may need this information.

Yesterday, I started using both Shelfari and LibraryThing and I think I found the answer to my question. I liked the Web 2.0 feel and interface of Shelfari but I think LibraryThing may keep me for the long haul. LibraryThing is great for archiving all my books but the feature I really love is their book suggestions based on my library and similar libraries of other users. This is perfect. I usually use Amazon but this requires that I look for a book that I’ve already read and then use the “what have other bought” feature to branch off to find another book I might like. Instead, I have all my books tracked in one place and fiction and non-fiction books are recommend in an instant. If Shelfari does this, I haven’t figured it out yet. LibraryThing’s interface isn’t as clean and it can be difficult to navigation but overall once you get use to the site this shouldn’t be a problem.

If anyone is looking to archive their books I’d recommend either site but my nod goes to LibraryThing. Hopefully over time the interface will evolve but as long is it keeps recommending relevant and interesting books, I’m hooked.

If you’re interested in seeing my partial catalog on LibraryThing, check this out…hopefully I’ll get some time to get all of my books cataloged.

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I saw this quote on Modern Marvels, a History Channel show, today from Twentieth Century Fox’s movie executive Darryl Zanuck who predicted in 1946 that TV wouldn’t last six months after its introduction.

“People will get tired of staring at a plywood box every night” he said.

I’m happy to see that the movie industry was just as forward thinking 60 years ago as they are today. Way to embrace new technology and use it expand your business and your relationship with customers. Can you imagine if they movie industry never embraced TV? Few if any movies would ever make a profit.

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Wow, quite the conversation going on about the validity of the press release and idea of replacing them with blogs. It looks like Stowe kicked a hornets nest. Who can blame the PR folks for getting upset. They’ve worked long and hard to dig those trenches. Now they must defend their camp.

I’d love to see the press release go the way of the dinosaur. In fact, I personally feel that a corporate web site should be a series blogs mixed with company contact information, events, partner content, etc. I wrote about this a while back and still think that product pages should be blogs done by a product manager or product teams. This information would be far more relevant and useful for people then the standard marketing pitch which is neither interesting nor authentic but I digress.

Here’s a recent experience where a blog would have been far more valuable then a press release.

It’s the middle of the day and a company’s Ex-CEO is charged with securities fraud. All the major newswires are covering the story but there is nothing from the company about this news. Why is this? It’s because the company has gone into damage control mode. Six lawyers and the PR team are busy trying to craft a one paragraph release that tries to explain the situation without saying anything at all. The whole paragraph is spin and meaningless and everyone knows this. It said a lot of nothing and that was the intent…make it sound good, appease the shareholders, and let’s not add to the situation. Too late, this release took seven hours to put together, wasted several hours of employee time, and came out well after the news broke. Shareholders and everyone else already got the news and opinions from other places. The press release was much too late. Now, what if the company had a news blog that was written by real people? Shortly after the story broke, the company news blogs could have been on the scene explaining the situation within minutes.

Now I understand that blogs won’t take the place of a press release overnight but it’s ignorant to think that press releases will continue to exist as they do today. They’re too slow, too contrived, and overdone. All of yesterday’s media channels are changing and that includes the press release.

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So what do businesses and the space program have in common? They don’t set difficult goals. Back in the dark ages before man landed on the moon John F Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University. During this inspiring speech JFK vowed that:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too”.

JFK made this speech in 1962. In 1969, just seven years after JFK’s speech, this goal was accomplished. JFK set a difficult goal for the US, but a wonderful thing happens when you set difficult goals. People get excited, they pull together, and they step up to the challenge. If left without such a goal, it probably would have been several years later that the US landed on the moon. Fast forward to today, the Bush Administration is saying we’ll land on Mars by 2030. 2030?!? That’s 23 years away. I confess to knowing nothing about the difficulties of getting to Mars and back but how is this a goal that we can get excited about? Is this goal any more difficult to us today as landing a mon on the moon was to people in 1962? Many people working on the program today will probably be retired by then. Others will switch jobs. It will be the rare person who sticks around that long to see the work they put in in 2007 come to life in 2030.

So what does this have to do with business? Too many companies after the stock market crash and business closures of the early 2000’s are doing the same thing. CEO’s are setting safe goals that can be easily obtained. There is no incentive to set the bar too high because if the company doesn’t make them, everyone looks bad and the stock takes a hit.

But there is an incentive isn’t there?

Of course! Sure it’s risky but if you want to stand out and be a leader you have to take these risks or the “first to land on the moon” goal will be accomplished by another company and in the end, that will be much more damaging to your business. Set goals that your employees can get behind. Give them a reason to push as hard as they can. Why not try to become the fastest company in industry X to reach 2 billion dollars. Why not try to be the first company to do X by 2010? Why not step forward and say you will land a person on Mars in the next decade?

Goals need to push people but they also have to excite people. Wouldn’t you want to be a part of a company that sets such goals?

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When it comes to sharing, searching, storing photos we have some great options. I use Flickr and I’m a huge fan but it doesn’t keep me from tracking what is going on at Zooomr. Thomas Hawk and team have done a great job of building this Flickr competitor. One thing I’d love to see Zooomr do would be to allow photographers to sell their photos within Zooomr. I had been hoping that Flickr would do this but since they’ve been purchased, they’ve moved at Yahoo speed, which is to say very slow. Yes, geo tagging is nice but I’ve been waiting for private RSS feeds which have been coming soon for years now. So I’ll propose this to the Zooomr folks.

Is there any possibility that you will allow users to purchase public photos that other users have posted to Zooomr? There are so many times where I come across a great photo in Flickr that I’d like to have at home or in my office but I’m left to negotiating this on my own with each individual photographer. It would be nice if a user could setup simple pricing, their profit on each photo sold based on size. Something like:

User Profit + Cost to Print (size) + Zooomr fee = Total Cost (what the purchaser sees)

This way great artists can make a profit on their photos, it would attract more professional photographers to the site, and I have a way to purchase all of these wonderful photos that until recently I could only look at within a web browser.

How about it? Any chance?

Perhaps this strays too far from Zooomr’s business model but I’m hoping that maybe some day it will be included. I know I won’t see it on Flickr anytime soon.

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Nice comparison of Apple TV vs. Mac Mini. I need a way to get my photos, archived DVDs, home movies, and music to my HDTV from my home network but I’m not convinced the best solution is available just yet. I was hoping the Apple TV would be the answer but I’m back leaning toward a Mac Mini…while hoping that it gets another spec bump to better handle HD recording. For now, I’ll wait and see what comes of the Apple TV. Once the reviews file in and the hackers come out with some enhancements it may make the answer more clear cut.

In the end, it doesn’t have to be Apple, but it has to have slick UI, support multiple file formats (VIDEO_TS,DivX,etc.), and be easy to use. Other nice to haves that may push me toward my final purchase would be HD recording, TV show archiving, and web. Hopefully an affordable solution will present itself in 2007.

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Apple on 24

Last night I finished watching 24. One thing that I found very interesting was Apple’s product placement in the show. Instead of purchasing the ad space to have all of CTU’s computers running Mac’s, Apple paid only to have Chloe use a Mac and Apple monitors. This makes a very subtle statement which I think works, at least for me. Chloe is the brightest and most talented employee at CTU (and most unique you could say) and having her use a Mac while everyone else is stuck using Dell’s coincides nicely with Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ad campaign.

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So as I was thinking about how to justify the cost of an 8GB iPhone, I started thinking about the potential of selling an advertising spot on the device. Laser etching has become quite popular and the potential to have your logo etched on a device that is sure to gather lots of looks could be enticing to some companies. From there, I started thinking about developing a business around such a market and it has had me wondering whether there is enough potential there for this to work.

What if you started a company that sold certain high tech gadgets for well below what they cost in stores by offsetting the saving by placing laser etched advertisements on the device? You could start a sort of Google Adwords for high tech gadget company selling prime real estate on laptops, phones, and other lusted after gadgets. If you could get a MacBook Pro for under $1k and it had a couple of logo’s on it, would you? I think I might and many other out there would too but the savings would have to out weigh the cost of cluttering up that nice MacBook design.

Now is there an advertising market? I think there is. I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of companies out there willing to pay decent money for a prominent spot on a device that is sure to get a lot of looks and attention. How much attention do you think the iPhone will get when it first comes out? If you had a web site that could be accessed from the iPhone would it be worth while to have your logo on the device? Perhaps. What if this person saw your logo for the life of the phone (perhaps 2 years or more) and hundreds of other people saw it as well? There is just as much value in this then there is in placing an ad on a billboard. I think if you could gather certain demographics this would be a great advertising tool. For instance, soft drink companies could place ads on any device that would be used on a college campus.

Now for this to work, I think you need a tool that would allow a person to select what the device they want to buy, the number of ads, and the size. This way, you could place just two ads on your MacBook and save some money or place several ads and save a lot of money. Advertiser would need an interface to bid based on logo size, product type, and demographics. There’s a lot of potential here and it could be a great opportunity if done right.

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Thank you John

Quote from Martha Graham passed along to me by John Emery….

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.

You never know what will help explain a feeling that you can’t put into words. This basically sums up 2006 for me. 2007 and beyond are slowly starting to come into focus…

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