Three Key Ideas from Steve Jobs

4 Products are the Basis for Technology's Most Valuable Company

With the recent passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, I wanted to share three of his ideas that you may find helpful. Steve Jobs’ business career is remarkable by any standard. His ability to go from boy wonder co-founder of Apple Computer, to Chairman and CEO of Pixar, to the largest individual shareholder of The Walt Disney Company, to ousted executive who returned to save Apple and turn it into a seemingly unbeatable brand, is simply amazing. While he made plenty of mistakes in his youth, he matured into a very successful businessman with some insightful thoughts on success. Here are three of his ideas worth sharing:

“Connect the dots.”

Over time, all of us have incredible life experiences – some positive, and some not. Regardless of the outcome, they ultimately shaped the person you are today. Everything that has happened to you in your past has the ability to positively affect you in the present – if you connect the dots.

At a 2005 Commencement address at Stanford University, Jobs told a story about how on a whim, he dropped in on a calligraphy class while attending Reed College back in the early 1970s. At the time, he found the class utterly fascinating, but totally useless. It wasn’t until 10 years later, when he was designing the Macintosh computer, that he was able to connect the dots. The result: the Macintosh became the first computer with beautiful typography and it became a huge hit in the desktop publishing industry.

Think for a moment about some of your life experiences. What lessons have you learned? What stories can you create from these lessons that you can share with your family, friends, or business associates? Stories are one of the best ways to connect with people so consider connecting the dots of your life experiences and turn them into a meaningful message.

“Say no.”

There is no shortage of opportunities in life. However, there is often a shortage of conviction. Rather than trying a little bit of everything and successfully completing nothing, Jobs did the opposite. He was an obsessive focuser on a small number of things that were truly important to him.

Apple sells essentially just four products: the Macintosh computer, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. With just four main product lines, Jobs led Apple to the world’s most valuable company with a $350 billion market value, according to The Wall Street Journal. Despite the temptation, Jobs resisted the call to offer a multitude of lower-end products and milk the company’s great brand. He said, “It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Ask yourself, what can you say, “No” to in your personal or business life so you have room to say “Yes” with complete conviction to something else that’s more important?

“Quality, not quantity.”

At Pixar, where Jobs built the firm from peanuts into a company that he sold to The Walt Disney Company for $7.4 billion, there is no 80/20 rule. It’s more like the rule of 100—every effort gets 100 percent support. Accordingly, Pixar delivered an average of only one movie every 18 months; a weak pace by major movie studio standards. However, the result was anything but weak. Pixar has generated more than $7.0 billion in worldwide box office receipts since 1995 – and they’ve had no bombs, according to The Numbers.

In 1985 Newsweek dropped the Curtain on Steve Jobs

Like Pixar, life is not about quantity. It’s about quality. When you spend more time focusing on quality – such as in relationships – life satisfaction will multiply.

In a 2004 BusinessWeek interview, Jobs reflected on his personal growth that resulted from successfully bouncing back from cancer. He said, “I realized that I loved my life. I really do. I’ve got the greatest family in the world, and I’ve got my work. I love my family, and I love running Apple, and I love Pixar. And I get to do that. I’m very lucky.”

By following these simple ideas – connecting the dots, saying no to the unimportant and focusing on quality, not quantity – you, too, can end up with a life you love. Do that and you’ll be one of the lucky few in this life who can look back at the end of their days and say with great conviction, “It was a life well lived.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs. You have indeed, “Put a ding in the universe.”

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Facebook’s Search for Relevancy May Embarrass You

Beware how Facebook spreads your interests across the internet.

Facebook may be the 800 million pound gorilla in cyberspace, but the Social giant’s share of the search engine market is almost non-existent. As a matter of fact, it’s not even worth measuring compared to search leaders Google and Bing. This means that Facebook is leaving a lot of gold nuggets on the table, considering that Social Search is the future of all marketing and communication. Growing a College Kid’s dream into a serious company, Zuckerberg and his advisors must have been a bit frustrated with this shortcoming, having 800 million users, yet are a non-entity in the search market? The reason: private data.

Since day one, Facebook has had a lot of data, but it has been mostly private. You could only see a person’s wall posts, for example, if you were friends with them. The limitations of private data made Facebook a weak search engine and subsequently resulted in very little usage.
Last week Facebook made a string of announcements that makes it clear Facebook is making it a priority to solve this problem. Facebook has made changes to users’ profiles to empower users with different sharing options. Now, on a message by message basis, users can select if they want an update to be shared with only one person, all of their friends, or the entire PUBLIC. That last option is huge. It makes the available pool of data and results available for Facebook search much greater.  For Facebook, to stand any chance in the battle for search engine usage, it has to encourage more users to share public data. And that’s what Zuckerberg tried to get across during his “show” in San Francisco, by implying that personal data should be available, after all we have nothing to hide. Or do we?

More ‘Likes’ Are Critical to Leveraging Facebook for SEO

One of the best default functions of Facebook is that data for business pages is public and open to everyone by default. However, there is more to leveraging Facebook for SEO beyond simply creating a Facebook Business Page.
Social search is really about more personalized search engine results. By analyzing information that your friends, followers, and connections have looked at online, search engines can not only provide better recommendations for a keyword you entered, but it can also tell you that a certain connection found this content valuable.
Because search in the future will be personalized and results will be based on social recommendations, it is important to start building reach today. Sure, all businesses want more people to like their Facebook page. These Likes are worth far more than vanity in a popularity contest between you and your competitors. Likes are also your pathway to getting more people to see and recommend your content. More importantly, in the world of social search, Likes are the new inbound links and will help search engines recommend your content to more people attracting new visitors and leads to your website.

Social Search Is Only Getting Started

Social search is young. It can’t even crawl yet. A lot is going to change as Google, Bing, Microsoft, Twitter, and companies that we haven’t even heard of yet battle in the years to come. One thing that won’t change is that search is only going to continue to get more personal. Social media will be the major source of data that drives search personalization.

Learn how your Facebook use can embarrass you.

In general I would say I don’t hide much of who I am and what I stand for, quite in contrast to my younger years. With the arrival of the internet in the rearview mirror almost 2 decades ago, I realized that privacy was a thing of the past and it would be better to dust off the skeletons in the closet and open the door ajar. There is a parallel between a fugitive hiding in a big city and people burying their privacy in an onslaught of information. The shear quantity of information available is a natural protection barrier until you stick your head out of the cornfield. And the new Facebook has a feature that may just do that for you unwittingly. Yesterday Pete Cashmore gave a clear warning on Mashable you will want to familiarize yourself with.

If you don’t have the time to read his entire essay, here is in a nutshell what you’re facing. Going through Yahoo News this morning I clicked on a picture of Demi Moore, being in the news now that her husband Ashton Kutcher has taken over Charlie Sheen’s role in the CBS hit series “Two and a Half Men”.  Rumors of a split between the two are imminent, kind of like Will Smith and Jada with a reference. Three clicks later I’m looking at pictures of Demi Moore in bikini on a Jacksonville beach while filming the 1997 blockbuster G.I. Jane.

Here is the clincher, if I would have left my Facebook “add to timeline app” on, my Facebook friends and the rest of the world would know what I was reading and looking at this morning. In my case quite innocent, because I never knew that G.I. Jane was filmed in Jacksonville (my keyword), but you and the world out there may have thought I was just another “dirty old man.”

Brand Loyalty often Misunderstood

Social Search is ready for take off

Social Search for Personal Branding is Ready for Take Off

Having Brand Loyalty is a hugely important advantage when you’re in business, but often misunderstood. Loyal customers are a business’ lifeline in tough economic times. But brand loyalty is often wrongly attached to the product or service. A typical example is a TV product called Two and a Half Men, which faced that reality last week when most of the record 27.7 million viewers of the revamped show with Ashton Kutchner replacing Charlie Sheen, came to the conclusion that Sheen-acting-Sheen was probably the entire attraction of the show, in spite of being surrounded by a myriad of funny actors playing off his persona. Of course we will give Chuck Lorre’s writers another chance or two before switching to another channel, as brand loyalty will slowly reveal that it is not the product but the person delivering it, that creates the loyalty. Charlie Sheen’s brand on Cable channel Comedy Central in turn commanded an aggregate 10 million viewers that same evening with the Charlie Sheen roast, making it the most-watched roast on the Cable network ever, and the most watched show of any kind with the targeted audience of viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. That’s brand loyalty for Charlie Sheen, who apparently still is “winning”, settling his $100 million lawsuit amicably.

Marketing experts have known for a long time that people were never really loyal to individual products or services, even though they often say they are. It’s the brand that they are loyal to and the brand is always the person that represents the product or service. Service companies have known this for a long time and through non compete clauses and other tricky legalese tried to restrict their top people when leaving the company. To the customer they are the brand. If you drive Ford or Chevy for many years it’s most often the dealer who is the brand’s face. It has always been like that and to prove it just think how easily we claim “ownership” of people that do something for us with the phrase: my handyman, my gardener, my mechanic, my dentist, my postman, my webmaster, my doctor, my financial adviser or my broker. We don’t become “possessive” with the use of the word “my” unless there is a degree of loyalty involved.

Corporations know this. Communications and Insurance companies, Grocery stores and Supermarkets, home improvement giants like Home Depot, Lowe’s and even Wal-Mart have turned their branding efforts to people.

You are a Social Search Brand

So here is a suggestion for all of you out there who have websites. Pay very close attention to where video shows up and will show up in the next 10-12 months. Brands are moving much more rapidly through video !
For example, when you order that Best Seller on your Kindle or iPad watch what changes are coming your way! It’s likely that you’ll see a new “Special Embedded Video” edition rising up. What does this mean? It’s an amazing version of the entire book with multiple embedded videos scattered throughout the pages. Research Dave Ramsey’s book “EntrePreneurship”. Right on iTunes you’ll find a Special Embedded Video Version, which brings you even closer to his brand…. which is essentially, himself.

And the changes keep coming…
As I have watched Apple roll out their iAds it’s become quite obvious that we could literally be entering a time when there will be no use or need for web browsers as we know it, even though Facebook’s changes last week were all aimed at becoming a player in SEARCH. But think this through… if you’re on your iPad or Smartphone it’s not likely you’ll even USE your browser like you might have if you were on a laptop or desktop computer. You might start browsing Facebook on an App, move over to Hootsuite to check your Twitter feeds, mosey over to read a book and if you do need to use Google, it’s most likely you’ll do so through….. you guessed it, an app! And you’ll do it following people, messages, personal contact… not products or services! It’s called Social Search and the term was coined in 2009, waiting for the technology to catch up on what people want.

Things are changing and it’s so important that you not only begin to understand, prepare and ACTIVATE for these changes, but you need to get your brand’s message right. Mobile marketing demands even more now than ever that your BRAND be wrapped around who you are and what you do.

Plain English? People want to see YOU and YOUR face and what you stand for on their mobile devices, not a glorified overly done flashy website.
When thinking through your brand, it’s important to ask yourself “Who Am I?” but remember, the answer to this question must lead to what people view you as. This might be a bit different than how you see yourself!
If you’re a professional and are used to being called “Dr So and So” or “Vet So and So” that is not going to work with branding. What you DO for people is where the focus needs to be.

This information will be hard for some to swallow but your college education, degree and investment into that Ivy League University means NOTHING when it comes to your brand, long term.

What does matter, what is BIGGER than that, is what do people want YOU for ahead of all others?  Do you make people well quicker? Do you make them money. Is your advise helpful in their custom circumstance?  Can you improve their health, their skills, their lives, their happiness, their income, their self confidence? This is part of your brand. If you’re a naturo-physician or therapeutic masseuse, do you treat people breaking all rules of traditional medicine? Than this would be a great brand-leading message. What result do you bring people? What are YOU an expert at? This is your brand. This is what people will know you as and remember for. Before the world wide web, you could not afford any profiling like this, but today it is at your fingertips or smartphone camera.

It’s important to not wrap our brand around our product or service. Always remember that people are never loyal to products or services. To get your brand into the minds and the hearts of the right people, my friends… wrap your brand around Y-O-U. That is why Facebook last week announced a number of ground breaking changes that all deal with emotional attachment at the center of the issue. Social Search is the Word of the Year. Watch Google’s Matt Cutts explain the essence of real content and in the process become the Face of Google.

Be prepared to face a completely changed Facebook

Is there an analogy with the Apple-Microsoft Stand-off?

Last night my wife mentioned that Facebook was drastically changing and she didn’t like it.The Social World was abuzz with critiques on the social media giant. Well, after today’s unveiling presentation at the f8 Conference in San Franciso.

Let me say up front Facebook doesn’t really care to grow beyond the 800 million or so users, no does it care a bit about increasing pageviews for ad revenues. Its priority has nothing to do with increasing revenues, that’s for later.
No, Facebook is all about emotion, or more precise, the loss of emotion over the years. Facebook has a spectacular level of engagement for many, but over the years it has become a must rather than a want. Many people these days visit Facebook these day out of necessity, not desire. They go there because their friends are there.

With Google+ openings bid at 10 million plus users, Facebook launched 3 changes recently, all designed to increase emotional contact, real time speed and bookmarking capabilities. But these afternoon in San Francisco it became clear that this was only the beginning, because as one observer said: These changes will make it so you know your friends better than you ever thought you could”, adding that software developers will be elated, users will be shellshocked (for a bit) and social media competition will feel like they were scorched in the social giant’s afterburner, finding themselves feeling ancient.

We will analyze the changes in the next few weeks on their business merits and keep you up-to-date. If you want to know NOW, here is a video of jubilant young new Billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg, as he explains some backgrounds.

f8live on Broadcast Live Free

Consequences of Corporate America’s Unwillingness to Self Regulate

Blown Away by the Sound of TV Commercials?

“Turn it down a bit, that’s way too loud”, her voice pleaded from the bathroom sink. “Turn it up a bit, I can’t hear” she said when she turned off the bathroom light and came into the bedroom. Of course she was talking about the noise levels on the TV and the annoying habit of commercials being broadcasted at twice the decibel level than the show you’re watching.
There’s probably been a few nights where you’ve been watching your favorite show, or just flipping through channels, and before you realized what’s happening, you fell asleep as the sound of the TV droned on. And then, without warning, a commercial comes on the air and shrieks you back into consciousness. Very unpleasant, but at least it tells you to turn the darn thing off.

Apparently it’s a problem that many people have been clamoring about for some time and in a world where advertising and programming execs had any sense at all, this problem would have been taken care of a long time ago by a self regulating industry. After all, it’s already hard enough to find the right sound balance for two people with a different set of ears, let alone having to deal with this annoying volume increase during commercials. And if commercials and TV promos are blocked together in a program break, the remote control gets a tickle attack. And so, since the corporate nitwits once again did not listen to their customers’ wishes, this issue of non concern turned into yet another LAW on the books.
Congress listened and last December they officially passed the CALM Act signed by Obama on December 15, which is specifically meant to address the fact that TV advertisements are way too loud in relation to the regular programming. Since it’s a definite pet peeve of mine I have been keeping an eye on potential changes in the world of broadcasting, since this CALM Act will be enforceable by December 14 this year. Sadly I have to report that so far NOTHING has changed. I still carry a shimmer of hope that the Fall Season programming will bring better balanced sound levels, but I don’t have high hopes so far.

Another Government Agency at the Trough

CALM stands for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM Act . I swear they must have some clever word smiths employed in Washington to come up with these acronyms.
And that’s exactly where my beef starts. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had nothing about regulating the volume of programs or commercials in its operating charter. It correctly assumed that Broadcasters and program producers would see the benefit of complying with their customers’ wishes,  and therefore left them with complete latitude to vary the “loudness” of the program material. But when mounting complaints of the TV watching public were arrogantly disregarded for a long period of time, the whole issue became politically viable. The industry claimed that “high end” equipment could regulate the sound volume through devices such as Automatic Gain Control Circuits, Limiters, Filters and Audio Compressors and there was no reason to self regulate. Of course they complete ignored one major fact. All the complaints came from Main Street, where the average TV does not carry these expensive features.

So the Government stepped in and produced the CALM Act, which will create another monitoring and reinforcement department inside of the FCC, with a staff, vehicles, an office, expense accounts and a budget. And the Tax Payer, the same one who complaint, now has to carry the financial burden of yet another government service that should not have been necessary in the first place.

And that fellow Americans, is just a small token of the sad vicious circle we’re in, where corporations that exist because of their customers, ignore these customers wishes or complaints, who then ask their political representatives to do something to protect them against the corporations. As we all know, politicians live by numbers and if the number of complaints is substantial enough, they’ll climb the soapbox and demand action. The consequence of this course of events is what I call capital destruction: Money paid out to structures and lobby interests that should have never even seen daylight, let alone be the cause for yet more government involvement. If corporate America wants less government, then it needs to embark on a major course change towards self regulation. If they don’t, the public will accept that government’s job is to regulate every minor annoyance out of their lives as they develop an implicit sense that, when problems arise, the way to fix them is to beg Congress, pass a law, wait for new irritations to arise, then wash, rinse, repeat. Personally I think that consequence is far more grating and obnoxious than volume manipulation from advertisers on the idiot box, but Corporate America doesn’t seem to get it. No wonder my wife watches most of her shows now on her Mac without commercial interruptions and many of our friends DVR their shows. Like John Popper sang: There is a Price to Pay.

Hurricane Irene Teaches Another Lesson for the Future

In today's energy driven world this is unbelievable

Reading about the more than 4 million homes and businesses (or somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million people?) being left without power as a result of Hurricane Irene hitting the Mid Atlantic states and North East so far, I had strong flashbacks of the 6 weeks we were left without power after Category 5 Hurricane Hugo hit the Caribbean Island of St.Croix on September 17, 1989.
Six weeks, and yet we were located almost next door to WAPA, the Virgin Island’s power company. It took between 6 months and a year for the rest of the island to be hooked up again, even though crews and utility trucks came in from all over the world to help out.

Ever since moving to the US, now more than 30 years ago, I have wondered why power in this country is still distributed above ground (overhead) on powerlines stretching via ugly wooden poles, with exposed transformers that blow up on occasion. When this happens powers goes out and businesses shut down for the duration. When the shut down happens because of a hurricane impact, the economy of a neighborhood, town, city, state or in the case of Irene, the entire eastcoast, comes to a screeching halt.
Destruction and danger go hand in hand, when water, wind and electricity meet and businesses go bust and lives are lost.
When I went through another category 3 hurricane Luis on the island of St.Martin in 1995, it happened again. Power was out for months and the tourism economy of the island barely survived the blow. But there was one difference in the ensuing reconstruction of the island. Holland, which is the “rich” partner in the constellation of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba”, sent utility workers, equipment and supplies to put all powerlines underground. A major and no doubt costly effort (most of the island is rock and granite) that however paid off nicely over the years. Since 1995 the island has been hit by at least half a dozen strong hurricanes, of which Lenny in 1999 was a major one. During the storms, the power company still shuts off the power, but as soon as the storm has past, the juice is turned back on and live is back to “normal” within days with huge clean up advantages because there is power.

A Lesson for Puerto Rico

Irene, long before she decided to harass the US east coast as barely a category 1 storm, came through the Eastern Caribbean, including St.Martin and Puerto Rico (a hundred miles to the west of St.Martin). The result: St.Martin was back in business the same day, but eastern Puerto Rico, from the city of Fajardo on, was declared disaster area and power is still out for many customers and businesses.

So what is the reason for a technologically advanced country as the US, not to put power distribution under ground. Too expensive according to the Power Companies, who think in short term scenarios, which exclude natural disasters, because that is something for insurance companies to deal with.  Western Europe did it in the 50s and early 60s and while I lived there I cannot recall every having a power outage. My brothers who still live there, have never reported computers being fried by power surges, not even in the worst storms. It rains, in various measure, on 300 days out of the year in Holland, the reason why it’s always green, dairy and flowers are major products and every city street has at least one bar on every block. There is an abundance of water to deal with, which is why powerlines are triple insulated in pipes and concrete housing as it crisscrosses the country and cities. As I said before, Holland, Belgium and Germany experience major inclement weather with storms producing windspeeds in access of 100mph, but I never experienced a power outage.

With hurricane Irene long passed here in North Florida I look over Fletcher Dr. towards the Atlantic on this sunny Sunday morning and see ugly wooden utility poles, powerlines and transformers obscuring my view and I imagine the misery if Irene would have passed us a hundred miles closer than she did. We’d be without power, no way to post this observation, no coffee, dead cellphones, no TV to update ourselves on what Irene was doing to millions of other Americans, food going bad in refrigerators, no gas at the pump for our cars. Misery all around.

Try to figure this one out after a storm

Oh I’ve been down that road several times in my Caribbean years…especially when hooligans come out at night to steal or demand at gunpoint whatever little there is left from canned goods to gasoline in the tanks of destroyed cars. And you better give it to them if you’re not armed and ready, because without power, the night is pitch black and law enforcement is usually busy elsewhere.

So here is a “novel” thought. We have serious unemployment in this country; we have a government itching to print more money for another Quantitative Easing program; two of which so far have only benefitted financial institutions; we have a society and economy that entirely depends on stable energy; we are moving into a major economic shift from industrial to technological society; all needing reliable, uninterrupted power supply.

Let’s put America’s power underground, for once not bowing to the ignorant corporate short term thinking that I found on the Florida Power website . There are numerous examples around the world that prove what FPL claims as their justification for overhead service is wrong, archaic and irresponsibly outdated.
The opening statement reads: FPL and other utilities build to an overhead standard established in Florida by the Public Service Commission (PSC) as the most cost-effective type of construction. It smells a bit too much like forceful lobbying in my opinion.

America built its wealth on energy. Without power/electricity there is no economy, just ask the people in the 4 million homes and businesses who were just cut off by what in reality should be called a minimal force tropical storm. Imagine what a category 5 leaving us without power for a year will do to the economy and then develop the vision to look into the future. Our economic driving force needs to be much better protected than hanging from ugly wooden poles and exposed to the elements. That was okay up to 1950, but the world has changed enormously since then. Time we get with the program.

VW’s Factory-Art Gallery Reveals Future of Car Making

A Car Manufacturing Plant that resembles the Guggenheim

Volkswagen built a completely transparent factory in downtown Dresden, Germany, that could double as a art gallery of technology and the future. I honestly do not know enough about car manufacturing plants and how they operate today, but when my brother sent me the following video this morning, it blew me away.

Having grown up at a stone’s throw from the German border in post WorldWar II times, we already knew of the German gene for technology and work attitude. My first car was a (previously owned) 1958 beetle that I drove for 6 months in 1968 without a clutch, because double clutching was cool. (You briefly touched the gas pedal before pulling into neutral, then give the gas one more hit while pulling into the next gear up or down. I did even make a grinding noise.
I just paid $1,200 for a clutch fix on a Chevy Cavalier that had to be towed, because without clutch there is no driving. German technology has always been mindblowing and watching this video, you may realize that this is the result of a culture of hard work and technological ingenuity. Creative thinking finds solutions such as, how to get parts to a plant smack in the center of a busy downtown area. Noisy trucks are not a viable answer, so the solution is found in using the public streetcar tracks for their cargo trams, timed in such a way that traffic hours in public transportation are not affected. Customers can actually see their car being produced or if they want to contribute to the building…they can. Now that is marketing and manufacturing 21st century. Watch the video for many more little jewels of innovation and then marvel at how few people it takes to run a car manufacturing plant these days.

While Germany offers some of the highest paid union jobs in the world, 6 weeks of vacation a year, affordable education, national health care, and still create a growing economy with a positive trade balance, one should honestly wonder why here in the US system we hold on to the notion that our system is better.
If American auto makers want to survive the politics of Washington control, it better return to innovation and creativity, which by the way happens as the result of a corporate culture of achievement in the design ateliers and R&D rooms and typically not on the production floor, no matter the amount of workers thrown at the problem. Germany’s positive trade balance is a resounding proof behind that statement.

The real question here is, when will old industrial Corporate America (GM, Exxon-Mobil etc.) shift its default mindset from government subsidized employment creation, to education and employment by design, pretty much in the way technology Corporate America has already done (Apple, Google etc). Judging from the way GM tries to sneak out of manufacturing responsibilities incurred before they were bailed out by the Obama administration, speaks louder than words.
Now that the car manufacturer operates as a subsidiary of United States Department of The Treasury, it is literally trying to screw more than 400,000 Impala owners (2007-2008 models) out of a legitimate recall-repair claim for a suspension flaw, by alleging that the cars were made by its predecessor General Motors Corp, now called Motors Liquidation Co or “Old GM.”
Apparently no lessons have been learned yet about 21st century accountability and repercussions, as a GM lawyer arrogantly states :”New GM did not assume responsibility for Old GM’s design choices, conduct, or alleged breaches of liability under the warranty.” What about the time and cost of regaining the trust of 400,000 customers and their several million spin offs to ever buy a GM car again?

And that is exactly what is meant with CULTURE. Germans like many Dutch and other Scandinavian countries have a workplace culture that not only precludes disrespect, but also combines loyalty with a clear mutual understanding that working hard has to have benefits for all involved. And the future dictates a open culture of innovation and creativity.
The ME-culture that grew in the US over the past couple of decades until it exploded in 2008, created a culture of distrust and disrespect between employer and employee, with an increasingly overbearing government presence to cloud the issues even more; not a fertile ground for creative solutions.

Transparency has made Western Europe a much better place to live and work in the past 60 years, and in spite of all the media stories we get here about the Eurozone problems with immigration and cultural clashes, the word I get from my family is that Life ain’t bad in a culture that respects tradition, history and progress in equal measures.

I wonder how many Americans are longing for the times when a Volkswagen Beetle cost less than $2,000 and American Ingenuity built a fifth wheel RV for it like in this video. Amazing. Click Here

A Crisis Driven Solution

More pollution means more beautiful sunsets!

As we are arriving on some historic, crisis driven crossroads – some would call it the dawn of a new sustainable system – I hear scientists from the Global Footprint Network are calculating how many planet Earths we need to inhabit to sustain our current growth rates, while at Cape Canaveral the final curtain has fallen for the American Space Program, at least for now they say.

The debates are centered around population growth and economic viability versus sustainability. In other words what is the maximum carrying capacity and at this point we are growing globally at a rate that is using resources equaling 1.5 Earths. But since we only have one planet and there is only so much we can rape from the future before repercussions should be expected, I do wonder about space exploration, given the fact that I have no confidence in human nature to control its voracity, until it’s usually too late.

Now mind you, Space Exploration in the hands of the government is waste with a capital W. For many reasons – sociological, political, technological, and economic and artistic expansion – I get excited about the conquest of space. But at this point it’s unfortunately a mixed bag, because a government program is the stupidest way possible to go about it. The Space Shuttle Program, although great for boosting chauvinistic patriotism, turned out for the most to be a hugely expensive military program, rather than a meaningful contribution to the future of mankind. So on one hand, I’m glad the government is out of the game, and I’m glad the financial and economic crisis makes it unlikely that the government will get back in it soon, but on the other hand I wonder why 42 years after we first set foot on the Moon, there are no permanent settlements or even cities yet.

Kennedy’s emotionally charged speech in 1961 about going to the moon rallied a Nation of taxpayers behind space exploration; what they got back are a handful of technologies with disputable benefits and a sloppy bureaucratic organization called NASA, expensive and inefficient. When it was a brand-new bureaucracy with a clearly defined and powerful mission, full of young, idealistic hotshots, it actually was an organization that got things done. That was before it became corrupt, stodgy, concrete-bound, and constipated. People remember the glory days and don’t see that NASA is just another bureaucracy today, like the Post Office, having outlived its original purpose and morphed into a large, costly, inefficient, expensive structure.

No… Space exploration belongs in the hands of free enterprise and given the fact that many operators in the free enterprise business are sitting on tons of cash these days, there is a sparkle of hope that greed will be shoved to the background in order to take humanity towards another frontier.
Unfortunately for the US however I do not think that as a nation we will play a leading role in this. I think that that position is set aside for China, if for no other reason that China, as no other Nation on earth, needs the frontier called Space to. Another reason, and I know I will get flack for this, is that NASA is effectively another arm of the US Military, and as such will never be abolished. If that were not the case then one solution would be to put NASA into a corporation and distribute its shares to taxpayers. Then it would be just another aerospace company, competing with scores of others around the world as a free enterprise business.
We’d then see if it can create capital, instead of just spending it.

Why China?

Because China is sitting at point Zero of the problem. And the problem is severe and not random said China’s environment minister, Zhou Shengxian recently. “The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the worsening ecological environment have become bottlenecks and grave impediments to the nation’s economic and social development.” It’s not just population concentration however. I remember P. J. O’Rourke once pointing out that Freemont, CA has the same population density as Bangladesh, yet NGO’s aren’t sending swarms of people there to try and convince the residents to stop having families.

It’s therefore meaningless to ask if we have reached maximum sustainable population size unless we also specify what standard of living we are talking about.
I can recall reading about 20 years ago that we had already passed the point where it was possible to give everyone on Earth the same standard of living as the average American.
But standard of living really is a proxy for resource consumption and not a very good one because as technology advances it can produce more from less. Eventually you reach a wall though.

Our Math is Bad

Pick a resource utilization number and multiply it by population. Is it greater than the available resources? If the answer is yes then we have passed the sustainable population.
On the other hand, divide available resources by population and you have the allowed resource utilization to maintain that population. But then of course:
• it all becomes more complicated when you treat resources as finite.
• it all becomes more complicated when you try to factor in the effects of growing technological capabilities…and
• it all becomes more complicated when you try to factor in the effects of human nature.

Human nature is bad in mathematics and to prove that, just imagine a test tube filled with sugar and water as if it represents all the resources and space on earth.
Now place one bacteria in the test tube. For the sake of the experiment assume that the bacteria doubles every minute and at 60 minutes the test tube will be full of bacteria and all space and resources are exhausted.
Here’s the question…. at how many minutes is the tube 1/2 full? Wait… wait… if you thought 30 minutes you’re not smart enough to be involved in any type of conversation relating to this dilemma. Yes, the answer is 59. The tube is 1/2 full at 59 minutes. And even if we invent a quantum earth duplicator and make 3 more earths, at 61 the second earth is exhausted and at 62 all four are. Our basic math illiteracy is the real reason many of us still think that we are all okay.

To be certain, in view of all the scientific evidence of resource depletion, human nature dictates “denial” and we will not change systems without a crisis. The global economy is going to have to get smaller in terms of physical impact, or expand extra terrestrial with a space exploration revival. Time will tell which way we go, but for now we are heading for a crisis driven solution. We either allow collapse and chaos to overtake us or we develop a new sustainable economic model. I am however confident we will choose sustainability. We may be slow, but we’re not stupid.

Google’s Panda Filter Measures Time Spent on a Site

No More Content Farming

With the Internet still being a young and relatively mysterious medium to many, most website owners so far have focused on how to build a website or social media presence and have given very little attention to format, design and in particular type faces. Of course the brainchildren at Google who are light years ahead of us mere mortals have given extensive consideration to these issues.

As a website developer with a traditional marketing and advertising background I have often wondered why tons of websites still feature fonts like Arial and Helvetica for lengthy text, while these fonts were originally designed for railway and bus station signs, not for extended reading. The type allows for fast reading as in a flash when the train or bus speeds by. But in lengthy text they make the reader go tired (without really knowing why) and leave your site.

Even though Google’s intention with Google Panda was to weed out the content farms, it has become evident that it is also going to impact your website’s ranking as a result of measuring the time spent on your website. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that fonts designed for print media and publications work the same as on a computer screen, because they don’t (in general). Reason why Google also devoted a great amount of time and attention to developing 222 web fonts which are available for download.

My friend Michael Campbell up in British Vancouver, Canada has spent a lot of time studying and comparing the best usage of fonts on a website. Following is an abbreviated version of his findings, you may want to consider if you’re looking for ranking and conversion on your website.

Introduction to Fonts

Fonts come in several categories like serif, sans serif, script, ornamental, monospaced, symbols and more. You can start your journey learning about typography by looking in Wikipedia.

Traditional Font Usage

• Serif fonts like Times New Roman have little extensions on the ends of their strokes. This makes them easier to read in print and in long passages of text.
• Sans serif fonts – meaning without serifs – like Arial and Helvetica were designed for signage. This makes them easy to read at a distance, or while traveling at high speed on a train.
• Some modern sans serif fonts – like Verdana, which is classified as humanist – are more legible than the old ones. They can be used for both headlines and text.
• Script fonts like Comic Sans mimic calligraphy and hand writing. They are best suited to headlines, logos and greeting cards.
• Ornamental fonts are highly decorative. They are usually used to create themes for posters, parties, invitations and logos.
• Monospaced fonts like Courier mimic old typewriters. They are not widely used anymore except in programming, or coding, as they are difficult to read on screen.
• Symbols like Webdings are made up of graphic symbols. They can be used to dress up a page with simple graphic elements.

Design for the Computer Screen

Traditionally serif fonts were used for lengthy text passages. Sans serif fonts were used for headlines. Most magazines, books and print publications are still designed this way. Our focus though, is on the computer
screen, not print. We want people to stay on our websites as long as possible. That means clean, simple, design and layouts. It also means choosing fonts for readability and legibility, in addition to how they look.

Ω Fonts like Times, Arial, Helvetica and Courier were designed for print. They can be used for headlines, but best avoided for text on the computer screen, because they tire the eyes quickly.

Ω Fonts like Impact and Comic Sans have special uses. For example, Impact works for slide shows when you want to make a point. Comic Sans and other cursives mimic hand writing, so they work for signatures and greeting cards.

Ω Some fonts like Georgia, Verdana and Trebuchet were designed specifically for the computer screen. Any of them would make an excellent choice for use on your websites. The easier it is on the reader, the longer they’ll stay.

Readability Do’s and Don’ts

– Don’t use more than three fonts on any one website as a general rule. Choose one font for text and links. A second for headlines, subheads and everything else. If you do need a third, use it for testimonials, pull quotes, call outs, or captions near photos.

– Your website design – as a general rule – shouldn’t have more than three or four colors. It’s the same with text. You want to minimize the use of colored text. When you do use colored text, make it match the color harmony of the rest of your site. For example, you could make the headlines and post titles match the background color of your site.

– Some colors like red, should be used sparingly, or avoided altogether. If you need to draw attention to certain areas of your site, consider using bold or italic versions of the font, instead of adding more colors.

– Avoid putting light text on dark, or black backgrounds. It can be used for effect, but not for any length of text, because it tends to sparkle, hurt the eyes, and tire the reader quickly.

– Also keep in mind that people with glasses and older readers, may have a hard time with small font sizes. Whereas 12 point might be good in print, consider using 16 pixels or larger for screen text.

– Avoid double spacing after periods. It’s an old habit, carried over from the typewriter days and mono spaced fonts like Courier. All serif and sans serif fonts are proportionally spaced and do not need a double space after the period.

– Never use ALL CAPITAL letters, as it makes the text 10 times harder to read. The only time all caps should be used, is in certain legal passages, where you want the reader to slow down, and read every word very carefully.

– Be sure to use headlines to help guide the eye. They break the text into logical chunks and act as teasers, pulling the reader into different sections of the story. It also helps improve your on page SEO.

– Choose a text font with plenty of line spacing between the lines (aka leading). You want the reader to be comfortable, which means they’ll stay on your site a lot longer.

– Never justify, or hyphenate your text. It’s a bad habit that’s been carried over from the metal typesetting days. Always use a ragged right edge, as it’s proven to help readability.

Conditional Top Picks for Web Fonts


* Indicates a core font for the web. These fonts are stored locally on your computer. They are called up by your web browser when viewing a web page that uses them.

# Indicates a Google web font. These fonts are stored on Google. They get sent by Google’s servers, when viewing a web page that uses them.

@ Indicates a best choice for web design.

Serif Fonts

* Times New Roman – For newspapers and economy of space.

* @ Georgia – Designed for text clarity on computer monitors.

# EB Garamond – A famous design for books and readability in print.

# @ Quattrocento – Classic and elegant, it’s very legible for body text.

# Droid Serif – Slightly condensed, designed for comfortable screen reading.

# Cardo – An elegant old style text font based on classic literature.

Sans Serif Fonts

* Arial – Very similar to Helvetica. Good for signage and short messages exposed in a flash.

* @ Trebuchet MS – A humanist sans serif made for web design.

* @ Verdana – Humanist sans serif designed for clarity on the computer screen.

# Oswald – A gothic style for advertisements and newspaper headlines.

# @ Ubuntu – Designed for clarity on desktop and mobile computing screens.

# Cabin – A humanist sans serif based on the Gill Sans font.

# @ Droid Sans – Optimized for user interfaces and mobile handsets.

Script Fonts

* Comic Sans – A casual script made tolook like comic books.

# Architects Daughter – Inspired by technical drawing and natural handwriting.

# Cherry Cream Soda – Bubbly and enthusiastic retro teen feel.

# Lobster – A thick display script for restaurant headlines.

# Permanent Marker – Fun and whimsical handwriting with felt pen.

# Schoolbell – Playful handwriting from a 2nd Grade student.

Ornamental Fonts

* Impact – When you want to make slideshows and bold statements.

# Bangers – Inspired by comic books and super heros.

# Cabin Sketch – Inspired by camping trips and teenage doodles.

# MedievalSharp – A gothic style inspired by stone cutting.

# Bevan – A bold slab serif display face inspired by the old west.

# Corben – Nice looking curvy display font for bold titles.

Monospaced Fonts

* Andale Mono – Designed for software development but rarely used.

* Courier New – Made to look like an old typewriter.

# Anonymous Pro – A fixed width font designed with coding in mind.


* Webdings – No letters, just decorative dingbats and symbols.

I hope this “Web Fonts” Guide, will help you make better decisions when choosing type. You want to deliver maximum comfort, legibility and readability. You want to keep people reading, once they
land on your site. If you follow these few simple guidelines, they’ll do just that.

Special Note: Our next Website Building Bootcamp is scheduled for the week of September 19. Maximum number of applications is 10. Drop us an email if you’re interested in learning how to build and maintain your own website in less than a week. With the economy performing less than satisfactory, you may want to start building another income opportunity on the internet.

Google purchases Deal Aggregator The Deal Map

The Deal Map gathers info from hundreds of social deal sites

Most of you have by now heard of the very popular social deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social. There are actually at least 400 deal/coupon websites throughout the country, but these two are by far the largest, which does not mean however that the others are irrelevant. They’re not, if only for one simple reason called the Dealmap.

The Dealmap is an aggregator, bringing together all the deal offered by these 400 or so local or regional providers. For example if you’re looking for deals in the Jacksonville area you get a total of 632 (as of today) from Spas to Restaurants, to Auto Repair Shops and Education products.

So guess what?

In another expansive move towards local market domination, Google just purchased the DealMap which only launched in May of last year but has been able to amass a user base of 2 million, while its App has been downloaded to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Androids a bit over 1 million times so far.
Although terms of the acquisition have not been leaked yet, it is not clear whether Google killed of a potential competitor for Google Offers, its tentative move this year into e-commerce and mobile payment platforms, or that the giant internet search engine saw tactical advantages in integrating DealMaps accomplishments into its own development of this market niche.

For now The Dealmap confirms that its main products and service will continue. Check it out.

Social Outposts and RSS Feeds

Real Simple Syndication keeps track of time and interest

Social Outposts such as Facebook and Twitter fulfill an important function for those coming rather late to the Internet. The reason Outposts are popular is because they’re easy. Easy to setup because they don’t require any specialized skills, easy to make look nice since you’re coloring within the lines. We all remember the days when Facebook started its relentless march passing teenage sweetheart MySpace with an adjusted platform. I remember telling clients in 2006/2007 to open accounts on Facebook and they all came back to me with the remark that it was too difficult.
Facebook made it simpler and since then acquired almost 600 million users. Social Media Sites, also called Outposts, are valuable and exciting networks. The social web as a whole continues to expand daily in a similar manner as the Universe keeps expanding as I indicated in yesterday’s blog post.

I see the Internet as a 3 lane highway. The high speed passing lane is occupied by professional people like us, who spend most of their waking hours studying, developing and testing internet strategies, creating new venues constantly. There are relatively few people in that lane and movements go fast with mobile being the latest addition. The middle lane is reserved for those who have committed to a web blog or site to brand themselves. They go a bit slower, but still much faster than the slow lane which is massively occupied by the Social Outposts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.). Because of the sheer volume of traffic in this lane, they are  the ones that are presently catching the spotlight, but the real internet value centers around the middle lane, the one that uses the medium to profile themselves without the limitations of the Social Media designs.

The reason why I’m bringing this up is because stream-based platforms are essentially “a problem in search of a solution”. Everyone within them (just look at Facebook and Twitter) wants something to point at. Something unique, useful, interesting or creative that exists outside the stream. The stream’s purpose isn’t to talk about itself, but rather to find things to talk about, comment on, amplify and share. But here is the warning: many businesses that today feel that a Social Media presence is enough, are missing the boat.

Every Company is a Media Company

Understanding and accepting the notion that every company is a media company, the opportunity that is staring us in the face for the longterm, points at the need to have or start a blog. That is true branding. Appealing to and creating networks of like-minded individuals and groups
Even as social outposts grow in popularity, the ease of spreading new, original and relevant content and ideas just continues to increase. In fact, as the average user decides to forgo a self-hosted platform in favor of yielding their presence to the stream, the opportunity for the company or individual who is above average able and willing to vest the effort to build a real web community – is mind altering. And honestly, that can only be done through time and money investment in appealing, well maintained individual web logs (sites).

A stream based platform, however popular, simply doesn’t foster the same type of community as one that is platform agnostic. To use social networks you don’t own, without having your own self-hosted destination that is updated with frequency and priority, is to act tactically – not strategically. You’re not building any longterm momentum this way.
In addition, social platforms are exclusionary by nature. Not everyone uses every platform and that’s something a lot of people seem to miss. For example by choosing Facebook as your only platform, is a bit like building a brand through the “old-school” mass marketing approach. You spend a lot of time (and possibly money) to reach a market that is unspecified. If you seek to penetrate an entire category and not simply a single network, then becoming a publisher is the answer – the only answer.

Other benefits having a self-hosted blog has over any network you don’t own/self-host:

• Your own domain with clean URLs is still the most accessible, find-able and share-able asset on the web. You do however need to apply Google Places, Maps and Mobile to your profile.
• Blog content can be shared across the web, in any way a user prefers.
• Media have become very comfortable directly reacting and linking to blog content, far more than any micro-content like a Tweet (ephemeral) or a Facebook status update (tough to link to).
• Self-installed analytics packages like Google Analytics or Omniture offer far more detailed and meaningful reports than any data from social sites and provide the full picture – all the way to conversion.
• Once sustainable traffic is build, you can point the firehose of traffic at any outpost you have a page on and grow it. For example SearchAmelia has a 43% traffic build through Facebook and 19% through Twitter.
• Three words: search engine traffic.
• A truly creative, personalized design that is as you define it, not constrained by someone else’s rules.
• On blogs, archives are valuable and continue to be re-shared and used to thread the past with the future. In stream-based platforms like Facebook, today’s updates are lost to eternity by the time tomorrow comes around or in search terms, page 2 might as well be page 90. At SearchAmelia we are sometime amazed getting comments on stories that were posted one or two years ago!
• You can run calls to action next to your content and get to an outcome (leads generated, talent solicited, ads clicked – up to you!).
• Traffic is distributed with a self-hosted blog: if one source dies up, there are many more.

You can build opt in at the source, bypassing the noise of the real-time web and distribute content directly to high value (but unloved) email and RSS readers. This is essential if you want to capture your markets within the time constraints that everyone has these days. An RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed allows your followers to pull valuable information from your site, rather than you trying to push it upon them. It also supports the two way communication module that is called Web 3.0 Here is a short video in plain English on how to set this up.

Of course the early adopters of the Bell Curve will continue to voice the message that “blogs are dead”. Interestingly enough however, you’ll notice the most popular place they do this is on …you guessed it, other blogs. It’s essentially an absurd conversation. My advise is to ignore this and instead focus on reality: that the single best place to build a voice for you or your brand and dominate your category remains blogging.

Remember, you are not just another web user. As someone reading this post: whether a marketer, an artist or an entrepreneur, you’re hardly average. Rather you’re looking for the most potent approach to share ideas. I know it requires work, but to think doing so does not, is naive.
The waves of change on the web don’t knock over the past, unless your equity is tied up in a single network. A distributed presence not only provides accessibility, it provides security.

It’s still a great time to start a blog, but every day you wait is another day you fall behind savvy competitors who haven’t been taken in by the hype of Social Outposts.

The Museum of Me Experience

Find yourself in the Museum

In recent weeks I have been working on developing, redesigning and updating a substantial number of websites. Many of our clients understand the power of a good internet presence, would love to learn more about social media strategies and how to manage their time inside of the essentials…and some just want to have a business card or flyer on the world wide web, where they can send potential business interests to for reference.

Although I prefer not to stand on a soapbox to stress the importance of staying up with the progress of technology and the vigilance needed to protect your privacy, it is very clear that most people don’t know about nor understand the current advancements of technology.

Many have embraced Facebook as their virtual friendship base online, not knowing that behind the “monster”, a universe of other social media are entering the scene. Just when most people are slowly starting to adopt Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as the triumvirate of social regimen, others niche sites such as Posterous, Tumblr, Foursquare, Qik etc. are crawling out of the bushes.

To give you a quick overview on relevancy of social media sites ( I admit that there is some subjectivity involved in this) here is what’s showing on today’s Social Media Monitors:

What Happened to…?

Bebo: Launched in January 2005, Bebo was particularly popular outside of America and appealed to a younger audience. The social network hoped to distinguish itself from rival social networks through its development of original content. AOL acquired Bebo in March 2008 for $850 million, but sold it for less than $10 million just two years later. Since their purchase, Criterion Capital Partners has revamped and re-launched Bebo with new features.

Flickr: The popular photo and video sharing site launched out of Vancouver in 2004. Acquired by Yahoo! just one year later, Flickr grew into an online home for more than 51 million users and 5 billion images. But as Facebook and mobile photo services like Twitpic and Yfrog add options to the photo-sharing market, Flickr has seen a decline in their audience over the past two years. The site is far from dead, however, as accounts like The Official White House Photostream continue to drive traffic to Flickr.
In some ways, it’s returned to the purest version of itself – that is, a hub for photography enthusiasts. It never became the corporate marketing “outpost” some originally imagined.

StumbleUpon: The StumbleUpon toolbar is an in-browser “engine” that helps users discover new Websites and rate them based on their preferences. The service was founded in 2001 and grew to more than 2 million users before being sold to eBay in 2007. The founders have since reacquired the company and increased the service’s user base to nearly 13 million.
StumbleUpon has surged ahead of Facebook to account for 43% of all social media site referral traffic. The community remains prominent in the field of social bookmarking (along with sites like Reddit and Digg).

Digg: Digg is the original social news Website. It allows users to submit and “vote up” stories that interest them. A darling of the early Web 2.0 community, Digg repeatedly decided against selling, preferring to remain independent. Though it raised additional funding and released numerous new features, Digg has hemorrhaged users and talent, including founder and Silicon Valley superstar Kevin Rose, who left in March 2011. As services like Twitter help users consume news more efficiently, this downward trend is likely to continue.

Delicious: Delicious, a social bookmarking Website, was founded in 2003 and acquired by Yahoo! just two years later. Its easy interface and cloud-based approach to bookmarking made it one of the most popular online services of its time. After considerable drama surrounding its fate, Delicious was recently purchased and will become part of AVOS, an Internet venture started by YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. It’s unclear what will become of Delicious, though it has a sizable community pulling for it.

The Future is licking its chops

While all the social sites mentioned above have merits, most of them will perish or conform in the near future to the growing transparency in user appreciation.
Facebook is obviously big enough these days to stay on the forefront for quite a while longer. One fascinating application of all the information gathered in your personal Facebook account can be experienced on an Intel powered website called Museum of Me. Try it, you’ll be amazed (or disgusted) about the power of exposure. I tested it on myself and was quite pleased and intrigued. When you open the website, be sure to be logged into your Facebook account or else you will be prompted. After that the magic unfolds.

Video is growing by leaps and bounds, especially Live Video
Ustream, Livestream,, Qik, Vimeo and the slow rollout of youTube Live all point  towards the future of video on the internet. Some people may think it’s invasive, but I can see Jeannie at Lashem-n-Leavem or Vickie at Tangles Hair Salon, setting up a live camera on and show a customer’s circle of friends exactly what is going on. Honestly I have seen more boring shows on TV then watching my wife getting her hair done.

Then there are business enterprise social communication tools like Yammer and Chatter which apparently greatly increases corporate productivity, considering that more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies were using Yammer by the end of 2010.

Other high rolling social media sites are Social Question and Answer portals such as Quora and Focus. People have questions, and Quora and Focus are two of the top sites for both individuals and businesses to get answers. LinkedIn Answers and Facebook Questions are also part of this booming sector.

Obviously social gaming is huge…but since I do not engage in that sector, I can only give you the names of some of the top players such as the new Empire Avenue: a stock market simulation social game network. If that sounds like a mouthful, here’s a simpler explanation: It’s an online community where members buy (using faux currency, called “Eaves”) and sell virtual stock in real people and companies. The game makes use of all of the tried-and-true forms of social currency – badges, status tiers, shout-outs – to create a “sticky” community. It has been described as “FarmVille for professionals.”
Speaking of Zynga’s Farmville: it is said that one of the reasons Google+ was a brainchild partially based on the fact that many Facebook users consider game invites annoying (I am one of them; don’t invite me to games…please). Whether that differentiator is sufficient for Google+ to lure people away from the familiar blue halls of Facebook is, of course, anyone’s guess. Google however seems serious this time.

And the latest group of Social Media that are making it big are the deal-of-the-day Websites like Groupon and Living Social which feature discounted gift certificates usable at local or national companies. Groupon is the market leader in this popular economy driven sector, whereas LivingSocial offers more deals focused on travel and hospitality. Also LivingSocial’s daily deal “experiences” can be shared with friends for additional benefits.

Tomorrow I’ll highlight why blogposts (outposts) and content websites are continuing to grow exponentially and how you can organize yourself inside of the massive amount of information through a directional RSS Feed.

First Major Global Bank Goes Mobile

Standard Chartered Apps for Banking on the Go

London-headquartered  Standard Chartered Bank — a Global 500 international bank with 1800 branches on six continents — last week adopted iPhone and iPad as the perfect platform to expand its mobile services, both internally and to its increasingly tech-savvy customers. “With iPhone and iPad, we’re really looking at the next generation of banking,” says Todd Schofield, Global Head of Enterprise Mobility at Standard Chartered Bank. “Managing our customers’ money is a responsibility we take very seriously, and our mobile services are increasingly reflecting that.”

While visiting New York and Washington after a 12 year absence to the metroplex, proof of the world going mobile was so “in your face” that for the past couple of days I have been diving headlong into the technology that is on the cusp of changing the way we live and do business. It’s a steep learning curve to master the significance of for example combining the powers of Google Places, Google Local and Google Mobile into one sound technology that will virtually eliminate any other form of interactive information gathering and exchange, be it local, regional or global. Stay tuned to some major educational opportunities we are scheduling for those interested in our monthly free technology seminars.

Banking on the Go

The bank founded in 1853 with more than 80,000 employees in 70+ countries and territories and a market capitalization that places it in the top 20 in the world, is the first major financial institution that goes MOBILE, globally.

With a particular focus on Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Standard Chartered sees immense potential to expand its mobile banking services among its increasingly tech-savvy customers. For consumers, the bank has developed Breeze, a suite of mobile banking and lifestyle applications. Corporate customers use the bank’s Sraight2Bank platform, which includes a mobile authorization app that gives corporate treasurers better control over transactions. qualified employees can download from an internal app store, the Standard Chartered App Centre. These custom-built apps streamline internal processes, securely transmit financial data, improve communication between customers and banking staff, and even tap into back-end systems such as PeopleSoft and SharePoint for management approvals and collaboration.

One example is the bank’s proprietary TradePort app, which enables Trade Finance Relationship Managers to securely perform or monitor trades on the go using their iPhones. Another valuable app is FX Rates, a real-time foreign exchange tool that shows Standard Chartered Bank’s own internal rates and ratios between currencies in real time.
Besides many of the applications under development, one enhanced mobile feature is very attractive to me, the text messaging capability that as a customer I can opt to get a message about any transaction I did or didn’t make; it takes only one tap on your phone and you’re connected to the customer service department, which will block that transaction immediately.

Unleashing the Future

But even this is only the beginning, because credit and debit cards can (and will) be turned into personalized APPs with much more fraud preventing securities built in than walking around with a wallet full of plastic cards; ultimately we all may have our personal APP that holds all information our individual lives operate on. Getting scared?
Don’t be… it’s all part of the game we signed up for when we lost our ability to correlate cause and effect.

During our recent trip I witnessed a technology nerd at a breakfast buffet bar, searching an APP for information on how much cholesterol 2 soft boiled eggs would add to his body. Maybe interesting to him, but a damn nuisance to everyone waiting in line.

We’re definitely entering an immensely interesting new world where APPS will be the record keepers of one’s life. And of course it all has to start with money control, that’s why I consider Standard Chartered Bank’s move a major step into the future.

Elvis has not left the building

Can you spot Elvis in the Window?

Photography has been my hobby for 40 years and occasionally I even made a living by producing and publishing coffee table photography books and calendars. I remember the days of metering light and perfecting focus manually with a large format polaroid picture to check all settings before taking the real picture. Cameras these days are amazing compared to 35 years ago and still the technology is only in its infancy.

For example: After my recent 2 week trip with a Nikon D200 across the Eastern Seaboard, I still wish I could magically go back to several particular scenes and re-shoot the picture because focus and/or light turned out iffy at best for what I was looking for. And then, about a 1,000 pictures later, worked up and improved in Photo-shop, I get an email from my friend Rick Traum with a link to the Wall Street Journal story that a company out west called Lytro is soon introducing a camera concept that will take photography light years into the future again.

We all have taken pictures we would love to refocus afterwards. I recently took pictures of the staff of Fernandina Beach Quality Health for their new website and out of 10 pictures, 9 were perfect: Sharp object with a fuzzy but colorful, active back ground. The tenth picture however delivered a fuzzy foreground and a sharp background. Somehow the camera had refocused on a different light attraction and made the object go fuzzy. Of course I had to go out and redo that shot.
Well soon that will no longer be the case if your wallet can afford the new Lytro Camera. This Stanford University Research developed light-field camera allows you to view photos in a web browser while shifting focuses to objects in the foreground or background by clicking on different parts of the image.

Light-field cameras capture much more information to create an image than digital cameras, which are already light years ahead of the Single Reflex 35 mm or even large format professional cameras from the past.
I have absolutely no idea about the technology behind this, other then that the lens opening time defines how many details can be recorded, but I will be looking forward to this piece of perfection to be introduced to the market later this year.

If you want to get an idea what it can do, I suggest you play around about with some of Lytro’s examples and click here or click the Gallery. Have Fun.

Will the metric system ever be implemented?

Ignorance, superiority or just not willing

Driving on a familiar stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike today, I had a déja vue going 30 back years when I saw the sign again that encourages Americans to go metric. I lived in New York and Secaucus New Jersey thirty years ago and this sign gave me a daily shot of hope that soon I could go back to metric thinking because all of America was soon going to be stepping away from the Imperial unit calculation system to the Metric system.  Well after thirty years I have been cured from the believe that it will happen in my lifetime. Something that was immediately confirmed when one of the teenagers in the backseat of our travel van asked,’How far are we from the exit” and the answer from the frontseat came back: “Three tenth of a mile.”

The main argument in favor of the metric system is NOT because it is standard for the rest of the world. The reason we should switch to the metric system is that in this day and age it simply makes a whole lot more sense. Everything is base 10, and if you know what the basic unit of measurement is you can very easily figure out how to go between units simply by moving a decimal place. Imperial measures, on the other hand, are totally psychotic. 12 inches to a foot, 3 feet to a yard, 5,280 feet to a mile. It is the type of nonsense that we would expect to see in Dr. Seuss story, not it real life.
A good system of units needs:
1) Base units which are well defined and independently reconstructible (i.e. a suitably equipped lab can calibrate their equipment purely from the definition of the units.)
2) Logically constructed compound units (e.g. units of force are derived from the units of mass, time and distance.)
3) Logically constructed convenience units (e.g. kilometres for use for distances which would be an inconveniently large number of metres.)
4) To be widely used.
The initial choice of your base units is largely arbitrary – whether it was a from a not-very-accurate measure of a king’s foot size or from a not-very-accurate measure of the Earth’s circumference. Item (1) can be satisfied equally well (or, in the case of mass, badly) by the metric or imperial systems. The definition of the metre has long since changed from the size of the Earth to quantities measurable in a lab (as has the definition of the foot.)
Item 2: In Imperial you might measure (heat) energy in BTU and mechanical energy in some mixture of foot-pounds-seconds, but then you need a conversion factor to compare the two. Such conversion factors are never needed in SI.
Item 3: Imperial also messes up the convenience units by having lots of weird conversion factors (e.g. an acre is (I think) a furlong by a chain. How many square feet is that? How many ounces in a ton?*) Metric uses convenience units constructed from base units via consistently named factors of 10 or 1000.
The SI system (based on metric measures) beats the imperial system hands down on items 2 and 3, and because of this now has a large advantage also on item 4.
Let’s say you want to convert a 1/4 inch of rainfall into gallons per square yard? Yes, doable, sure. But even with a calculator is less accurate and takes a while. In the metric system however it’s just counting zeros and shifting a decimal point.
A meter has 100 centimeters, so a square meter has a 100×100 square centimeter, or 10000. Easy, just count zeros. Liters in a cubic meter? Easy. Kilograms per square centimeter to tons per square meter? Easy, just counting zeros.
But square inch to square feet? Square miles? Fluid ounces to a gallon? 
And if that isn’t bad enough, add all the competing units used in the US. Air pressure is a different unit when the air is in the atmosphere or in the tire. For energy, there are different units depending on whether it is an air conditioner, a furnace, a car, what company I get the energy from, and whether the second Friday after July 4th falls on a full moon.
The difference with the metric system is not, that inch and cm are different. The beauty of the metric system is that you have a consistent system. And that’s why scientific calculations are exclusively done in metric and the result is then transfered back to imperial, so the US public won’t get worried that the French or Japanese took over, communists gained control of the class room, or that their politicians betrayed the greatest conceivable nation on earth.

Imperial System Once Made Sense

Now over the years I learned also, which is what most Americans are completely unfamiliar with, that the Imperial System has a history that once made sense. As a matter of fact, the imperial system units only appear messed up to our modern perspective.
Trying to build a house in 16th century, you would like to make sure that your corners are square and you happen to know that a 3-4-5 triangle will give you a right angle. Cool. Not too hard to divide a rope into three equal sections or four equal sections either. Just fold it into thirds for the “3” unit and in half twice for the “4” unit. However, what this means is that your desire for square corners dictates that the natural units that you are working in are 3 and 4. Thus, it makes sense that the “total” unit should be divisible by 3 AND 4. So…12. This is why the foot is twelve inches – some dude a long time ago wanted to build a house with square corners and he figured that 3+4+5 is 12.
The metric system would have been totally unnatural for a person in the 16th century – as it is only divisible by 2 and 5. In our world where machines handle both the math and the measurement, this is OK. If you don’t have these fancy instruments, it is not. Architect and contractors in the States will tell you that the building industry is so entrenched in imperial measurements they haven’t used metric scale in years or ever. Every single product is based on imperial dimensions, meaning design, coordination, and calculation require the same.
Some examples: joist spacing tables display span lengths for 16″ and 24″ on center spacings. These tables are everywhere and they’ve been around unchanged forever. All the plywood sub-flooring is in 48″ x 96″ sheets. Works great for either joist spacing and in either horizontal or vertical orientation. If you buy a house in the US, standard is an 8′ ceiling, “up scale” is 9′, exclusive is 10′. (Who would know the status of a 3 meter ceiling?!) Studs are already available and pre-cut to accomplish these heights. Drywall is sold in these lengths. Concrete and soil are measured in cubic yards, roofing by square, carpeting by yard, ceiling tiles in 24″ squares, etc.
The International Building Code (what most of us here use) gives dimensions in Imperial numbers, including sprinkler head spacing, floor loading requirements, floor-to-floor, allowable areas, etc. Think about it, every plumbing, gas, and sanitary drain system connecting your building to infrastructure is calculated in imperial from engineering tables more than fifty years old. Tape measures are all imperial as is surveying equipment. The entire commercial real estate market is in imperial, changing to metric would crush every agent and developer trying to calculate pro-forma for all real estate in the country. Lumber mills and woodworking equipment that has been around for years and that produce moldings, doors, boards, handrails, furniture, etc., are all imperial. Existing surveys, architectural drawings, engineering calculations, and every other kind of specification, calibration, documentation, regulation, etc. in the building industry is imperial, doing a simple renovation or addition (actually >50% of the building industry) would require the overhead of converting all existing information prior to proceeding. The only way a building project in America will stay in true hard metric is if it is being built overseas.

There is still hope for the metric system

Yet, the effort to go metric is still alive in many circles, simply because it makes so much more sense. So the plan is now to go metric one system at a time. First soda bottles, then automobiles. Science is there, and a lot of SI units are becoming comfortable on food packaging. The building industry is going to have to do the same and maybe now, because of the depression state in building, would be the right time to start. Many highly manufactured components interface with imperial ones in a relatively unimportant way. Think for example windows cut into a wall. Commercially, roof membranes are specified in mm and many other components are manufactured in hard metric dimensions with proximal imperial values (like thicknesses of drywall and plywood). But things like bricks, lumber, and plumbing pipe may take a while.
In the context of how quickly humans adopt new technologies, the sequential essence dictates that the more frivolous a technology is to our live and safety,  the shorter the product cycle and the faster humans can adopt to that technology.
Thus, food – fast product cycle, beverages – fast cycle and purely luxury, we can change quickly over a matter of years. Automobiles have a medium life cycle and are of varying criticality to our lives (compare rural Texas with Manhattan or urban Chicago), so they will require a medium length of time to adopt – decades, plus or minus. But housing? That’s a very long product cycle and we have a very strong emotional connection to our shelter, so we are very conservative about how we build them. I am convinced metric adoption will definitely not happen in my generation’s lifetime.
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