November 21, 2007

Good advice...

For me it's Facebook...not really into Myspace :)

(for RSS subscribers who subscribe and cannot see the attachment - click here)

(via Branding Blog)

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August 14, 2007

[too funny] Atheists in Massachusetts can be jailed...

I just ran across this link on Reddit.

"Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying...his creation...or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost...shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior. "

Better get rid of "God is not great," "The God Delusion," and "letter to a christian nation."

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July 30, 2007

Mad scientist, wanting to destroy the world...

That is the profile of a Myers Briggs' ENTP personality according to Xero Magazine.

Quite a funny description of the personality types if you ever took the test :)

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July 2, 2007

8 pm news on CNN led by a die-hard "conservative"?

Glenn Beck is subbing for Paula Zahn on CNN this week. In the first 13 minutes of tonight's broadcast he must have said 10 or more times that he is a "proud conservative" (whatever that means) - commenting on what's "right" in the American Justice system and on the "moral values" of middle eastern religions.

Who the heck at CNN thought that it would be a good idea to have an outspoken "conservative" to be a prime time news host?

Ah...maybe Harris was right - too many people in this country believe in "rapture" and that is what is selling ads.

At the end of the day, it is a sad story for democracies across the world to have people who should be limited to doing op-ed pieces and special programs present the daily news on major networks like CNN.

Maybe it's time to go back online for relatively "unbiased" news sources...if those still exist.

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May 10, 2007

Google maps finaly has directions from where I live to the town I was born in...

It is so funny to see how Google Maps provides directions to my home town...


Click on the map or this link to get the directions (

I especially like step #13 - Swim across the Atlantic Ocean :)

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April 5, 2007

Ready for an Enterprise 2.0 Rave?


Here is another cool project I am working on - organizing an Enterprise 2.0 RAVE in NYC on May21-22 with the great team at Longworth Venture Partners .

If you are a practitioner looking at deploying web 2.0 tools in your enterprise or actively strugling with pilot projects to try to do that, you should not miss this event. And if you do plan on going, use the link below to get a $250 discount for the RAVE. Seating will be limited and we already have two registrants!

The paint is still wet, so if something does not work correctly let us know.

See you there.

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March 30, 2007

What happens to large enterprise software vendors as the workplace becomes "atomized"?

Reading Jim's post and reflecting on two conversations I had this morning - one with a relatively senior person at a major financial institution who told me that the biggest barrier to adoption for enterprise 2.0 tools in his company may be the fear of a flatter organization, another one with a sales rep from one of the two largest enterprise software companies who was trying to convince me that they now cater to companies like ours, with 2 people, a goldfish, and a virtual network of freelancers - got me thinking about the long term prognosis for large companies in general and the fate of large enterprise software companies in the face of an increasingly "atomized" workplace, or as FAST company said in a recent article - a world of a billion single-person enterprises.

I Larry Keeley says, we always overestimate the amount of change in the short term, but we also underestimate the amount of the change in the long term. I wonder how many large enterprise software companies are thinking about this future...or how many large companies in general for that matter.

WARNING - big changes ahead...

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March 27, 2007

When it becomes too personal

I wrote about the recent disturbing public attacks that Kathy Sierra had to endure on her blog and others over at the Future of Communities blog.

I wanted to use this personal blog to wish her well and tell her that many people hope that she writes again in the near future!

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March 16, 2007

Back from the Community 2.0 conference


I just got back from the Community 2.0 conference, for which I organized and managed the program. We had almost 70 speakers, moderators and provocateurs - but as expected, some of the most interesting ideas and thoughts did not come from the stage but from the rich discussions and interactions on the future of communities that everyone was having from morning to night.

In hindsight the Community 2.0 moniker was a good one. Many attendees who had been been part of the first business community wave - the one a decade or more ago, which did not materialize - were seeing signs that this wave was much more real, and based on vastly different motivations. An informal poll showed that more than 60% of the audience was already involved with running and integrating communities as part of their business. As one attendee said during a "panel from the audience" session - when a competitor starts competing by leveraging communities, you have no choice but to respond by leveraging communities yourself. At this point the effects of successful community management are game-changing, not level-setting.

I will post additional feedback from the conference on the Future of Communities blog as well as summarize what is happening with the new community association on the CMMC blog. I will also return to a more regular blogging schedule on this blog, with many fresh thoughts on marketing and innovation.

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January 31, 2007

Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary to the rescue of non corporate jargon users

The Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary has some interesting definitions for those of us who are not all that familiar with corporate speak (via Here are some favorites:

Assmosis [v.] The apparent absorption of success that comes from sucking up.

Blamestorming [v.] Meeting to discuss a failure and find a scapegoat.

Bouncebackability [adj.] The ability to reverse a losing situation and then succeed.

Head shunting [v.] The secret hiring of a head hunter to persuade an ineffectual employee to take a position at another firm. Nicely eliminates the mess of having to fire someone.

Prairie dogging [v.] The simultaneous pop-up of several heads when something interesting is happening around cubicles.

Presenteeism [n.] The practice of working ridiculously long hours.

Zerotasking [v.] Doing nothing.

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January 1, 2007

Tag, I'm it!

My friend Pito tagged me - so now I am supposed to reveal 5 thinks about myself that you might not know...

So here we go:

  • My first job after graduating from engineering school was selling wine

  • I volunteer as a mountain ambassador during weekends

  • I am an avid reader of everything related to current events, business, politics, science, but also science fiction

  • Religious extremism (and I am not just talking about the turban-variety) is slowly but surely moving me from being religiously agnostic to a die-hard atheist

  • I am actually a very shy person

So now I get to tag 5 other unlucky people:

Tag, you're it!

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Happy New Year!

First off - Happy New Year everyone!

As a friend wished for me - may peace break into your house and may thieves come to steal your debts!

We will soon return to regular blogging!

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November 22, 2006

[off topic] When the highest levels of government abuse power in the name of security - it spreads like wildfire...

This is what happens when you have a government in place which rules by instilling fear in its population and disregards basic human rights and privacy laws in the name of security... abuse of power spreads like fungus.

Considering that I have a son who is an American of mixed heritage, this video pushed me to tears. I truly hope that someone at UCLA security will be held accountable and get severely punished for this humiliating act of torture!

A quick Google news search on this incident also shows our deep ignorance about foreign countries and cultures. From reading many accounts you might as well conclude that Iranians=Arabs=muslims (=terrorist). Well, first off Iranians are not Arabs and on top of that this guy was a Baha'i - who are some of the most peaceful people around!

[update] This cop has a history of violence...and here too.

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November 10, 2006

[rant] Where is the news that matter?

I am on the road and looking for some good news. The main networks don't show any news at this time of night. Fox is out because it is pre-chewing the news for me in ways that I cannot stand. MSNBC's Scarborough Country is "scarily" starting to look like Fox (favorite show quote tonight from in-residence-lunatic Pat Buchanan - "Bush is not a true conservative"). And CNN has no news at this point.

Having 100 free channels with the basic cable program up here, I would expect at least one decent news channel..

Is there really no market for this?


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October 9, 2006

Water and electricity do mix...

It just depends on your point of view...


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October 6, 2006

This really sucks...

I just found out that if you Google "this really sucks" this site shows up #6 in the Google search results (click here to see the results if you happen to stumble upon this post 10 years later and Furl is still around).

I am not sure how to take this ranking :)

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Buyer expectations for a new water

Fiji.pngIt is funny to see how an 11 year old evaluates a new water. The following is a dialog I had with my son tonight in the supermarket:

my son: Daddy, can I try a bottle of Fiji Water
me: sure, take one
him: I want to find out why Fiji water is so famous (not sure where he got that)

(after evaluating the labels)
him: oh - it comes from the island of Fiji - do you know where that is?
me: sure
him: and it's artesian water, what does that mean?
me: it comes from artesian wells, which fill up with ground water
him: hmm...

(later in the car)
him: can I have my famous water
me: sure

(after taking the first sip)
him: wow - this is really watery
me: HAH - what did you expect from water
him: no, you don't understand - I mean it has absolutely no taste - it's like air. Poland Spring does not taste like air...
me: HAH
him: but that is GOOD - it means it is real pure water
me: I see...

Not sure what you are looking for when tasting a new water, but this was sort of enlightening to water is obviously not something that comes natural to me :)

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September 28, 2006

Safety is a relative term...

The standards in different countries seem to be widely different...


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September 14, 2006

Neanderthals lived longer than expected

The Journal of Nature reported yesterday that the Neanderthals may have lived 2000 years later than originally thought.

And all along I was convinced that you could still witness fine Neanderthal specimen in corporate life as well as in politics.

...surely, there must have been some cross-breeding.


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September 11, 2006

[Off Topic + Personal] Remembering September 11th, 2001

Like millions of others all over the world I remember exactly where I was when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Fortunately, my business trip to Chicago had been canceled, and I was almost at work when the first reports of something burning in the WTC started to come in.

I spent all day watching this most horrible tragedy unfold between the conference room TV and my office computer - sharing the pain, the questions, and trying to understand the magnitude of it all, with colleagues, friends and family all over the world.

In the subsequent days, my internal thirst for basic answers became almost intolerable - driven in part by the need to have to explain what was happening to my 6 year old son, and in part by the changing attitudes of some people towards foreigners - especially those that were unfortunate enough to "look" like they were from Middle Eastern origin. Here in Boston, a woman from South America got assaulted in plain daylight at a busy intersection - mistaken for an Arab, as if that had all of a sudden become a valid reason. A friend of mine of Indian origin, got spit at in a popular suburban mall.

As I do in most cases when faced with the new and the unknown, I started reading everything I could get my hands on that would possibly help explain the "why's" behind what had happened. Of the many books that I read, three stand out as truly useful in understanding the situation, two of which were written prior to 9/11 - God Has Ninety-nine Names: Reporting from a Militant Middle East, by former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, by former Washington Post reporter Geraldine Brooks, and Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, by former senior CIA official Michael Scheuer.

Feeling the need to do more in fostering understanding for what had happened I also started a discussion thread with a few friends of mine - called While it never materialized as a vibrant community, we had some very interesting discussions which included people from all over the world - including Palestinians, Arabs, Persians, and even an self-proclaimed IRA member.

Soon, however, it became clear that the "why's" of what had happened would not matter much longer. It is “because” of what had happened that fundamental changes started to rip through our society that would forever alter its fabric.

While some would have described the pre 9/11 American culture as a “juvenile” culture – one where everything is possible, one where failing as part of learning is acceptable, one where people are eager to explore the new and the unknown, one where differences in cultural background and social origin were not barriers, one where diversity was embraced and turned into a strength, etc. – the post 9/11 America was one that was growing up too fast – skipping some critical steps along the way. We lost almost all our friends and allies, we enabled terrorism to take hold and flourish in places where there was none before, we tolerated religious extremism in this country to interfere with government, science and education, and we allowed socio-economic, religious and cultural differences to become real barriers once again. As was the case with Katrina, those socio-economic differences proved devastating for thousands of people.

We also allowed fundamental freedoms to erode in the name of security - but are we really better off and more secure?

Now I can just hear the echo of that sales woman in the shoe section of a major department store a few years back - yelling at me when I was politely trying to prevent someone from cutting in line: "GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT!"

The problem is that I do care, and I do love this country. Thankfully I still have a juvenile attitude about how all of this will unfold...and I still believe that things will be better in the end.

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September 2, 2006

Playing with the new camera in the back yard...

(click for larger picture)

polinating sm.JPG

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August 8, 2006

Are we really building what we "are"?

Check out the similarities between these two you believe that this indicative of the fact that we build what we are as suggested on the Value Network mailing list?

build what we are.png

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July 7, 2006

Why are we men so self-conscious about asking for certain types of help?

When I came back from the West Coast earlier this week, I realized that my old Ford SUV had a flat tire. I did not really feel like changing the tire myself as it is an old car and it was on an incline on top of that.

Being a member of AAA, I could have just called them and have them come and change my tire. But being self-conscious about calling a service to change my tire, I procrastinated for 2 days. Finally I called this morning...and when they sent a woman to come and change my tire, I felt like crawling under a rock from shame.

Strange and stupid feeling - really!
...after all, I am paying for this service!

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July 6, 2006

Corporate Visibility 2.0 - Are Public Break-ups a Good Thing?

divorce sm.jpgThere have been some highly visible web 2.0 company break-ups recently. The pubsub story comes to mind, where the co-founders publicly went at one another through their blogs (well one more than the other - here and here). Then yesterday came the undoing of rocketboom, where it's unclear what really happened other than something really messy (here, here and here). And those are not the only ones - there are many other partnerships that have gone up in flames in full view in the last 12 months..

Business partnership break-ups based on differences in personalities are never a good thing, and often lead to the demise of young companies. But when they become highly public and visible like that, doesn't it makes things worse? Not only do the chances for the company as an entity to survive become more limited - which is clearly not a good thing for customers, employees and business partners - but personal reputations get destroyed in the process as well. And other than making for a good web-soap, there are really no other benefits that can be derived from this kind of visibility.

Could this be an indication of the disproportionate (=unhealthy) role of personal egos in this wave of innovation?

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July 5, 2006

Which organizational structure has the highest chance of survival in a pandemic?

pandemic sm.jpgIn a recent Harvard Business Review forethought (here - requires subscription or can be purchased separately), Prof. Nitin Nohria from the Harvard Business School asks which of the following organizational structures would have a higher likelihood of surviving a pandemic or other disaster:

organization 1:

  • hierarchical
  • centralized leadership
  • tightly coupled
  • concentrated workforce
  • specialists
  • policy and procedure driven

organization 2::

  • networked
  • distributed leadership
  • loosely coupled
  • dispersed workforce
  • cross-trained generalists
  • guided by simple yet flexible rules

Which company would you bet your money on?

It does not require an advanced degree to realize that there are some fundamental lessons to be learned from mother nature...

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June 22, 2006

MarketingSherpa Best Blog Award - please vote!

If you've tried to vote for the MarketingSherpa's Best Blog and Podcast awards and were kicked off the server, there is a new link that they sent out that should work ( They also extended the deadline for voting until Monday.

So if you have not done so, check it out and vote for your favorites. There are some terrific blogs that are part of the lineup (including this one)!

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June 16, 2006

Best practices are meaningless - but worst practices are to be avoided

Target practice sm.jpgBased on some comments made during last week's Innovative Marketing Conference, Rebecca Lieb from ClickZ ponders whether best practices even exist.

Bryan Eisenberg said that best practices are often times achieved under very specific conditions and can therefore not always be generalized. Len Ellis said, give me emerging practices, best practices are so yesterday!

All this rings so true. If a practice becomes a best practice that is replicable across other companies or industries, you have to assume that most of your competitors will have adopted that practice - thus giving your company no competitive advantage from embracing it.

What companies really should do is to avoid replicating "worst practices" - a practice which if you were from another planet observing what earth companies do you might conclude they do on purpose:

  • Screw customers after they purchase products by treating call centers as a cost centers instead of customer relationship based economical centers

  • Continuously interrupt prospects with rude and mostly out-of-context messages

  • Treat employees as disposable cost centers instead of valuable customer interfaces

  • Insult customers' intelligence with stupid messaging or by blaming them for product failures.

  • Grab a ton of information about prospects and customers and give them nothing in return - or worse - asking them for the same info over and over again

  • ...and so much more

Let's ban the worst practices first, then let's worry about best and emerging practices!

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May 17, 2006

Sorry, you're from Massachusetts

If I heard that once, I heard it at least a dozen times last week. Can you guess where? No, not New Hampshire. How about Napa Valley, CA. I spent a fabulous week touring both the Napa and Sanoma valleys, sipping some mightly fine wines. I soon discovered that many wineries have a number of reserve bottlings that are available only at their tasting rooms, or through their wine clubs. From a marketing point of view the wine club is a great way to build a loyal community of repeat buyers. They offer limited bottlings of wines that are not available in local retail stores, sell them at a discount from the price charged in the winery retail store, and ship them direct to your home once a month. Sign me up!

If only it was that easy. My first encounter with the curse of Mass. was at Domain Chandon. After sampling their delighful Blanc de Noirs, I asked where I might buy some. I was told I could buy it right there, or join their wine club and have it delivered to my home. So as I filled in those two deadly letters, MA, in the address line of the application form I was told, "I'm sorry, you're from Massachusetts, and we can't ship to your state." In fact, there are 25 other states like MA, and a number of ZIP codes within Florida that prohibit wine shipments direct to your home. For some background on why, and what you can do about it if you think this is really dumb, go here to a site dedicated to help "free the grapes."

As I said, the "I'm sorry, you're from MA" routine followed me everywhere I went. No exceptions. At one winery the person behind the counter said, "you must have a friend in New Hampshire, we can ship there with no problem." If you're not from New England, I should tell you that the motto of New Hampshire, prominently displayed on their licence plates is, "Live Free Or Die." Which seems to apply equally to people and grapes.

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May 5, 2006

Why is live at work so different?


A friend of mine, a brilliant programmer, a published fiction writer, and a successful solo entrepreneur, who had never worked in corporate America in his 20 year carreer, took his first salaried job 6 weeks ago.

Earlier this week, he called me for carreer advise - telling me that he felt like he had landed in Dilbert cartoon. "People don't "do" things, they sit around for weeks talking "about" what to do", he said, "and they use all these made-up words that do not even exist in the English Language, I am going crazy!"

My advise was to get out, which he did an hour later.

Why is it that live at work is so different from anything else around us? People behave differently than they do in their social networks. Is it due to human nature or organizational nature?

Hopefully changes are underway in that area...

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April 28, 2006

The dumbest trade show marketing tchotcke?

tchotcke.JPGThis must qualify as one of the dumbest trade-show tchotckes I have seen - or maybe I am just missing something. An army of people at Ad:Tech were distributing these money clips filled with two $1 bills. When I got it, I could not find the booth in the immediate vicinity and a few minutes later I realized they did not even have a URL on the clip for me to look them up.

...oh well...must be some "new" marketing technique...

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March 6, 2006

Back in the saddle

After a vacation week and a week of heavy business travel - I am back in the saddle.

Last week was very productive week which included a presentation at the New Communications Forum (comment on the panel by the moderator here, picture at the event by JD Lasica here).

It was good to see many Corante Contributors in person, and also interesting to note that 10 of us were speaking at the conference.

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March 1, 2006

In education, class matters

As someone fortunate enough to live in one of the more affluent suburbs of Boston, I must admit a certain smug pride in the well above average scores the town's students achieve on the state-wide MCAS (Mass. Comprehensive Assessment system) tests every year. Their performance on these tests helps ease the pain (somewhat) of the huge portion of my property tax bill that goes to funding the local school. But hey, the better the school and the better the teachers, the better the education. Right? Well, according to a study from the UK, reported in the Feb. 28 issue of the Guardian, maybe not.

A study by academics at University College London (UCL) and Kings College London has given statistical backbone to the view that the overwhelming factor in how well children do is not what type of school they attend- but social class.

The report, which uses previously unreleased information from the Department for Education and Skills, matches almost 1 million pupils with their individual postcode and exam scores at ages 11 and 15. This unprecedented project has revealed that a child's social background is the crucial factor in academic performance, and that a school's success is based not on its teachers, the way it is run, or what type of school it is, but, overwhelmingly, on the class background of its pupils.

The study found that, whatever their background, children do better the more "middle-class" the school they attend, and also that more than 50% of a school's performance is accounted for by the social make-up of its pupils.
Put simply, the more middle-class the pupils, the better they do. The more middle-class children there are at the school, the better it does. It is proof that class still rules the classroom.

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February 27, 2006

Don't know whether to laugh or cry

Long-time colleague Bob Hill sent this to me and I felt it had to be shared.

A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe race
on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their
peak performance before the race. On the big day, the Japanese won by a

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate
the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior
management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had eight people rowing and one person
steering, while the American team had eight people steering and one person

So American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large
amount of money for a second opinion. They advised that too many people
were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

To prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management
structure was totally reorganized to four steering supervisors, three area
steering superintendents, and one assistant superintendent steering
manager. They also implemented a new performance system that would give
the one person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was
called the Rowing Team Quality-First Program, with meetings, dinners
and free pens for the rower. There was discussion of getting new
paddles, canoes and other equipment, and extra vacation days for practices
and bonuses.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American
management laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development
of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investments
for new equipment.

The money saved was distributed to the senior executives as bonuses, and
the next year's racing team was outsourced to India.

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February 16, 2006

[shameless self-promotion] #18 on BlogBridge top 100

That's what this blog ranks on Blogbridge's Top 100 Users' Favorites...

Not bad! we're not too evil...favored by readers...

Seriously now, if you have not checked out BlogBridge recently, you should do so soon...their latest reading list feature is pretty powerful!

(disclosure - I am an unpaid advisor to BlogBridge)

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February 9, 2006

This blog is not too evil...

I just ran the site through the germatriculator and it turns out that we are not too evil (via Zoli's blog)


At least someone is having more evilness

evil wh.png

It must feel pretty bad, when even Playboy is less evil...

evil playb.png

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January 30, 2006

The ethical edge - a religious question?

Last night, MSNBC had a rerun of a program that originally aired last summer - called "the ethical edge." It honestly felt like being in the twilight zone when I realized that the panelists were a priest, a rabi and a professor specializing in tort reform.

Not only was a good portion of the show dedicated to workplace ethics - with none of those guys having ever worked in a mainstream workplace - but in general I wonder why MSNBC thought that a mainstream audience would find such a panel authoritative on the subject of ethics...

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January 13, 2006

Look away when you think - it helps.

According to the BPS Research Digest Blog, a recent study from Sterling University found that looking away when thinking helps (via marginal revolution).

The study was based on 5 year old children - who were asked to answer a range of verbal and arithmetic questions of varying difficulty. Half of them were told to look away when thinking, the other half were not. The children that were asked to look away were doing so more often that the ones that were not told so (52.5 per cent of the time on average vs. 34.7 per cent) and answered more questions correctly (72.5 per cent vs. 55.9 per cent).

We have so much to learn from children...

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December 23, 2005

Gone skiing - Happy Holidays!!!!

1134227006pico.jpgHappy Holidays to all of you!

I may or may not post some stuff next week...but will be back after the New Year for sure!

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December 9, 2005

I like the way the Italians think...

Just heard on the BBC - the Italians are considering taxing porn by 20% and channel that money to families who need help with babysitting...


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November 16, 2005

What did he say?

This just in: When asked about progress on the never-ending court battle with NTP over Blackberry patent infringement, RIM top honcho Jim Balsillie said he couldn't comment. He described NTP's action in June, which led to the failure of the settlement, as a "dramatic repudiation" that was "quantum deltas from palatability." Repeat after me: QUANTUM DELTAS FROM PALATABILITY. Does that mean it left a really really bad taste in his mouth? Gee, if the RIM gig doesn't work out for Jim, I think he definitely has a future in politics, or dare I say it, high-tech marketing.

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November 12, 2005

[off topic] Ever wondered why it takes four people to paint a pool?

africa3_ (2).jpg


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October 31, 2005

Why smart people defend bad ideas

Francois' post about how people react to flawed reasoning (from the intro to Tom Asaker's new book) reminded me of an article by Scott Berkum: "Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas." You can read/download it at Here's a quote from the article that describes a person we have all run into in our lives. "Smart people often fall into the trap of preferring to be right even if it's based in delusion, or results in them, or their loved ones, becoming miserable. (Somewhere in your town their is a row of graves at the cemetery called smartypants lane, filled with people who were buried at poorly attended funerals, whose headstones say 'Well, at least I was right.'

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October 30, 2005

[personal] We did not expect to be doing this over the weekend...

Kilington oct sm.JPGWhile being up in Killington Vermont this weekend we were surprised by the early opening of the mountain son and I took advantage of the situation...and had a wonderful time.

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October 26, 2005

Be brave!

I found this at Jim McGee's blog and liked it a lot...


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October 20, 2005

This is a good one...

(from gaping void)

...and so is fear of death itself!

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October 13, 2005

[personal] How fast we can become totally powerless…

Today I got one of those dreaded calls – a good friend of mine for 25 years called me to tell me that not only she had cancer, but that she had been in the hospital for two weeks undergoing radiation and that she was basically paralyzed from the waste down as the cancer has metastased to her spine.

Now here is this smart, beautiful, fun and driven woman; who just recently had been offered the CEO job at her company. She is also a proud and happy mom of two small children. Like me, she immigrated to this country after college, and she achieved all this with little more to start than a degree and a couple of thousand dollars. She also went through a lot of hardship – being the first one to discover her younger sister after she committed suicide, witnessing her dad whither away due to Alzheimer’s disease, and supporting her mom, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease - but none of that was ever enough to dampen her optimism on life.

So you get the picture – she is the type of person for whom everything has always been possible! Barriers? What’s that?

But in an instant her whole future became a set of question marks. When she called me, I was floored – literally. She asked for me to go visit her down in Atlanta – she thinks that she can draw some strength from me and use it to make whatever miracle she needs happen. Of course I will go, but strength?…I am not sure that I have any right now – as I am just as ill prepared to deal with these issues as she was.

I know I will find it and be able to support her in her battle – but to me this was a major wake-up call. Heck - I am not ready for this!

Shit – this sucks!

Sorry – had to get this off my chest….Wish her strength and luck - she deserves it!

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September 27, 2005

CMO Magazine Special Report on Innovation


WARNING: this is a shameless self-promotion post.

It is flattering, however, when a respectable magazine like CMO magazine lists your blog as one of the "10 Blogs that can jump start your creative spirit".

Here is the list:

Ok - and now we'll return to our regular programming...

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September 8, 2005

When you have something to cover up...

The government has finally found it's way to New Orleans - only to kick out the press and making sure that we won't be seeing any coverage on the recovery operation.

You don't believe it? Read Brian Williams' article over at MSNBC: "the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history." See also Jeff Jarvis' post - Stop the cover-up now.

This sounds like some sort of third world country. What do you think our government's reaction would be if a foreign country would botch a natural disaster as badly as we did, refuse our aid, and then prohibit free press to report on the aftermath?

Actually, now that I think about it - perhaps nothing...

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September 5, 2005

What the heck happened?

Well I am back…relaxed but like many others, outraged at what happened last week in Louisiana.

I guess there are few lessons that can be drawn from this whole debacle.

  • Command and control does not work when you have as much incompetence at the top of the command chain as we have.

  • Command and control does not work when the planners cannot do their job and come up with credible contingency scenarios.

Heck, maybe command and control does not work at all – period!

What would have happened with a networked organization – an organizational structure that does not rely on the top only, but one that is self-organized and full of redundancies? Would it have taken as long to come up with actual help? Would it have stranded thousands of people without evacuation options? It’s all speculation now, but I bet you it would have worked different.

And let’s not forget that this serves as an example of the type of response we could expect from our government for any kind of emergency. If we had 1 week warning for this one, what would you think would happen with no warning?

This whole thing is just beyond bad…it is a disgrace…

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The American Red Cross

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August 24, 2005

[off topic] Negative long term effects of government spending priorities

There is a great article on the BBC about our government's anti-science policies and the possible future implications of those policies - quoting Vint Cerf as saying "that's a recipe for irrelevance and decline."

This goes hand in hand with our failing educational policies - leading to the number of people that graduate with engineering and science degrees in this country to be totally out of whack compared to upcoming Asian countries like China and India (here from Business Week). Inventor Dean Kamen has been trying to do something about this for years through his non-profit First!

In the mean time, and according to the NYT (needs subscription), we will be spending over 1 trillion dollars on our wars (already we have spent $258B)...that is more than $11K per family!

Does this make sense? Don't we have certain obligations to the next generations?

And then I have my son who just showed me this great Green Day Video (if you need another format go to their site and click on video)

Green Day.jpg

...what should I tell him?

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August 23, 2005

Teens and traffic accidents

If you have a teenager/tween - show them this movie (> 5MB! - via adrants).

It is a short movie, captured with a cell phone by friends who are having a good time. One of the teens steps in the street while goofing off and without looking - and gets run over.

According to this web site, traffic is the single biggest cause of accidental death for 12-16 year olds in the UK.

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August 11, 2005

Discounted trip to the moon

According to Wired, the company that pioneered commercial space travel by sending people up to the international space station is planning to send people to the moon - price $100M.

Pretty cool...I bet you they advertise on aSmallWorld...

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July 29, 2005

Personal update - moving to Corante

I have alluded to it in an earlier post, but as some of you already know, I recently agreed to join Corante as a partner, investor and head of marketing and sales - a truly exciting move for me (here and here for more info).

So why a publishing company after being a product guy for so many years?

There are 3 main reasons for that.

For starters, Corante is not your typical publishing company. Instead of hiring writers and publishing content, we connect readers with experts. And in this day and age of scarce reader attention span and information overload, that is exactly what people are looking for.

Second, Corante is in the midst of the web 2.0 wave. And while some of the things we are working on are not yet visible, this opportunity is one where product and technology will play a prominent role.

Lastly, and especially as a marketer, I am excited about being at the other end of the table. After being on the buying side of advertising for many years, I think that we can do much better - and I am looking forward to testing different ways to help marketers reach their goals.

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July 26, 2005

[off topic]Prison system - punishment or rehab

Ok, I was in f2f meetings all day today, so not much time for blogging. But as I drove back from my last meeting I was listening to NPR interviewing the oldest female inmate in the US. She is 92 years old and was sentenced in 2003 to a 7 year prison term! For her that is the equivalent of a death sentence.

That got me thinking about the recent sentence of Bernie Ebbers - 25 years. For a guy his age, that is also a death sentence.

I know those people did wrong - and in some cases they hurt many people. But is that a good reason to give them a life sentence? Those people are not likely to hurt anybody again - and in some cases you could argue that some can still give something back to society.

Should our judicial system only seek punishment? Because that's what you do when you give out a life sentence. What happened to trying to rehabilitate people?

And how does that compare with giving child sex abusers less than 10years...or have some commit crimes after being in jail 5 times for the same thing?

I don't know, but somehow I do not feel good about the way our system works.

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July 25, 2005

Look what happens to spammers in Russia

Yikes - after aggressively spamming for the American English centre, the New York English Centre and the Centre for Spoken English and after repeated counter-attacks involving hundreds of people against spam - Vardan Kushnir, the head of all those centers and notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday! (here)

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July 12, 2005

More Thoughts About Learning

Francois raises an interesting question about learning. I don't know if we learn "better" from people we associate with, but I do think we are more likely to accept information as being "true" or "correct" when we receive it from people we associate with. That could be simply because we tend to trust the people we associate with, and conversely, we prefer to associate with people we trust. So maybe the key to answering this question is to focus on what attributes lead us to trust another person and thus open ourselves to learning from them. So I'm wondering why is it that I trust Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal, and therefore tend to accept his product reviews without hesitation? Maybe its because over the years of reading his columns I've built an association with him in my mind. Maybe it comes from the way he writes; I "hear" him talking to me as I read and I like how he sounds. Or as Seth Godin points out in his latest book, All Marketers Are Liars, maybe I've told myself the lie that Walt and I share the same world view about personal technology, and so I am willing to learn from him. If Francois finds some books on the topic, I'll have to borrow them.

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Do we learn better from people we associate with?

As I picked up my son from his computer camp today he told me that his favorite teacher was the the head teacher because they share a favorite skateboarder and a favorite band.

I know people deal with information overload by subscribing to feeds from trusted people - like John Udell from Inforworld for example:

“ At one time, my RSS intake was mostly feeds from conventional published sources, along with a few from individuals. Now it’s the reverse. 
I subscribe to people more than to publications, and not because I don’t value the information in those publications — I do, very much — but rather because, outside of the realms in which I’m closely involved, I can delegate the job of tracking primary sources to people whose interests and inclinations qualify them to do so.” John Udell, ‘The Network is the blog’, Infoworld, 12 Oct 04 (via simon waldman).
But does that mean we learn better from people that we trust/associate with than from people who may have more knowledge but who have fewer touch points with us?

An interesting question...I wish I had more time to buy a few books on education or sign up for a few more blogs on the topic.

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July 10, 2005


africa5_ (3).jpg

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July 9, 2005

Very cool - and efficient

Around the world with two gallons of fuel - now that's cool! Check it out here.

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July 6, 2005

Someone else is stealing my content

As I was going through my log I found this link. I am confused why people would think that what I write is a) worth stealing, and b) helpful to sell antiques.

I will use the Jason Calacanis process to deal with this one and let you know what happens.

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June 28, 2005


Check this out...


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June 24, 2005

Is it time to move?

If this is true, it is scary. Big brother spy in our new computers?

Update - this was a hoax. See Buzzmachine...

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June 23, 2005

Is your boss a psychopath?

The latest issue of Fast Company has a whole article on Psychopath bosses (not online yet- will link as soon as up). The article also comes with a quick quiz to help you calculate the extend of the problem:

  • Is he glib and superficially charming?
  • Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth?
  • Is he a pathological liar?
  • Is he a con artist or a master manipulator
  • When he harms other people, does he feel the lack of remorse or guilt?
  • Does he have a shallow effect
  • Is he callous and lacking empathy
  • Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions?
Give 2 points for "yes", one point for "somewhat" or "maybe", and zero points for "no".
Then compute your score.
  • frustrated
  • cautious
  • afraid
  • very afraid
I guess I have had enough bosses to safely say that I have witnessed people that cover the whole gamut without having anyone feel singled out.

It is amazing to me how companies can function with people like this in prominent positions (see also the revenge of the "c"th). Or maybe it just tells us something about the resilience of companies as social organism...

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June 18, 2005

Teaching 4th graders business ethics...

I truly enjoyed the last of my junior achievement classes - this one teaching 4th graders "business ethics."

When I ran the examples from Seth Godin's latest book by them (i.e., Johnson lying to congress to get funding for Vietnam and Prudhomme's promotion of red fish which almost led to their extinction), they had no problems distinguishing the ethical from the unethical. When we talked about the fictitious pencil company needing trees to produce pencils - they understood why in the long run it makes sense to take less profit upfront in order to re-plant trees. And when they role-played being on the board of directors of a company that polluted the air to the point where their workers became sick - they made the right decisions...

But then I tried to come up with an example that would be a bit closer to their world. The question was - what would you do if your best friend tells you that he or she is about to hurt some other kid?

  • Answer 1 (majority of the kids) - go tell someone else (teacher, parent, etc.)

  • Answer 2 (1 kid) - try to convince my friend not to do it before telling someone else

  • Answer 3 (1 kid) - never tell on your best friend

  • Answer 4 (1 kid) - it depends on who he or she is about to hurt...if I don't like that person then I would not tell

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June 17, 2005

[off-topic]How can we afford people like that

I was speaking with a good friend of mine who works for the state. She was totally stressed out about a problem employee she has had to deal with for months. Apparently the person in question is totally inept – only good at screwing things up and screwing other people in the process. She calls in sick all the time. Once she called in sick on a Saturday (that group does not work on Saturdays) – twice! The second time she called (20min after the first call), she said she could not remember whether she had already called or not.

Of course, the impact on the morale of other team members in her group are predictable – people are getting fed up, people are sick of having to work extra time to cover up for her, etc.

The amount of fully documented cases of incompetency for that person are apparently very high – and she has even been given an official warning through HR and been put on ‘trial’ or whatever term hr uses for putting people on probation.

Problem is – my friend is unable to fire her! And there are apparently tons of people like that on our state’s payroll… it's not fair to the taxpayers and not fair to the good employees that work for our government

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June 15, 2005

This time, it's for real: Save NPR and PBS

(Via whatsnextblog) - the following text from

You know that email petition that keeps circulating about how Congress is slashing funding for NPR and PBS? Well, now it's actually true. (Really. Check at the bottom if you don't believe me.)

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS:

A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," and other commercial-free children's shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch.

The cuts would slash 25% of the federal funding this year—$100 million—and end funding altogether within two years. The loss could kill beloved children's shows like "Clifford the Big Red Dog," "Arthur," and "Postcards from Buster." Rural stations and those serving low-income communities might not survive. Other stations would have to increase corporate sponsorships.

Already, 300,000 people have signed the petition. Can you help us reach 400,000 signatures today?

Read the Washington Post report on the threat to NPR and PBS at:

Update 6/24 - cut rejected 248 to 140 to maintain funding for the corporation for public broadcasting! Moveon sent notice that they got over 1M petitions...this works.
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June 13, 2005

Left wing and right wing arguments in virtual worlds

Hey - check this out - they have right wing/left wing arguments in virtual worlds as well. Very cool...

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June 8, 2005

Approach marketing as an investment instead of an expense

A great article for all marketers to read was just published in the McKinsey Quarterly (here – subscription required but free - thanks Hylton for the pointer).

It starts with the marketer's doomsday scenario:

“Today's chief marketing officers (CMOs) confront a painful reality: their traditional marketing model is being challenged, and they can foresee a day when it will no longer work.”

Ever had that sinking feeling – what are you going to do next? Or in the gig after that?

The article continues by listing the challenges that we as marketers will increasingly face – declining effectiveness of advertising, lack of trust by the buyer in our messaging, multitasking of our audiences, proliferation of channels to reach buyers – to the point where TV advertising may just be a waste of time and money.

You don’t buy that? Think about it – there are now 1,600 broadcast channels in the US. While surfing the web, a typical teenager does 2 other things, and even 80% of business people multitask! And according to a Yankelovitch report people are also switching off – 69% would like some sort of product to avoid marketing and 55% would avoid buying products that overwhelm with advertising…wow.

“Marketers need a more rigorous approach to a fragmenting world—one that jettisons mentalities and behavior from advertising's golden age and treats marketing not as "spend" but as the investment it really is. In other words, it will be necessary to boost marketing's return on investment (ROI).”
… now there is a novel concept.

But marketers seem clueless. While the effectiveness of TV advertising in 2010 is estimated to be 35% of what it was in 1990, and while TV viewership has plummeted by almost 45% between 1994 and 2003 – TV advertising spend has continued to rise!

The article further posits that the answer lays in approaching the different marketing investments (not expenses!) like an economist

“For CEOs, the key to economic leverage is allocating capital to the businesses generating the highest returns. For marketers, economic leverage comes from aligning messages and spending with a brand's most compelling elements.”

They further recommend that marketers allocate 20-25% of their budget on “well-structured” experiments. I suspect that the actual number for smaller and younger companies will probably be way higher – but the key is “well-structured” experiments – much like what VistaPrint did (see MarketingSherpa)

There is no question that we marketers will have to do things differently as we move forward. Besides building predictable brand creation and brand maintenance machines as described in the article, we will also have to demonstrate more innovation and be willing to take on more risks while trying new ways of doing things.

Also, and as I have said before, marketing will have to start taking responsibility for "all" the ways in which a company behaves in the marketplace. Too many CMO's are just too focused on the brand creation and maintenance while forgetting that their help desk, customer centers and distribution partners are pissing us off to the point where we make promises to ourselves never to buy their products again.

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June 7, 2005


It's interesting that in the last week I received two phishing emails - (one pretending to be from eBay and one from Paypal) both using the new email address posted on this blog and only used in the context of this blog (i.e., to respond to comments on this blog or to comment on other blogs that are worth commenting on).

I guess that from now on I will use 'destinationwebsite' at emergencemarketing when I leave comments on others' blogs and see whether the phishing continues with those new addresses.

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June 3, 2005

All marketers are liars

I started reading Seth Godin's new book, "All Marketers Are Liars" - as usual a good read. A few things in the book caught my attention as worth commenting on.

First is when he says that marketing is not about pitching products but about telling stories. That is so true, my friend Gabe (btw - where the heck are you Gabe? if blocked use autoblogger ;-)) used to say “its not the better product that wins it's the product with the better story”. The story has to be powerful enough so that people want to retell your story but also simple enough so that they can retell it with some degree of consistency. Sadly enough, too many companies do not yet understand that. Nor do they understand the fact that the story about the product travels separately from the product itself and that those channels need to be managed separately.

The other major statement that caught my eye was:

"marketing is about spreading ideas, and spreading ideas is the single most important output of our civilization".
As you know, I believe that marketing it broader than that. Spreading ideas happens after you invented and built the product. And once you have the product and you successfully are able to spread your stories, you have to train the organization as a whole to behave in accordance to the story that you are spreading.

More later...I am enjoying this one.

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May 29, 2005 - development through enterprise

If you want to contribute (words, thoughts, ideas...not just money) to a site that seeks to eradicate poverty through profit - go to Development though Enterprise - via business week's tech beat.

Their stated mission is:

"Our goal is to identify and discuss sustainable business models that address the needs of the world's poorest citizens."

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May 24, 2005

[rant] Why is it so damn hard to buy stuff online in Belgium?

Being from Belgium and having family over there I tried buying a digital camera and a mic online for my brother. I could not use or since they would not allow me to ship to a Belgian address (actually they did, but at the very end of the ordering procedure I got an error saying they could not do that).

So I figured I would try a few local shops with self-proclaimed online commerce presence (ColliShop, Photo Hall, Colruyt, Super Company, Intellihome, and Krefel) - only to find out that none of them could take my order. Some had forms that would not allow the buyer to be from another country, one tried to send me to paypal for payment but misdirected me, one required me to chose a local shop to buy from, and one said they were going to call me for payment (which of course never happened - and when I replied to their email to cancel my order, my email came back undeliverable 5 days later). I thought I was lucky when Krefel took my order, only to find out (3 days later) through an email that they want me to fax them copies of both sites of my credit card and a copy of my identity card (both sides as well). I have not had one of those is years!

What the heck is happening? Is online shopping in my native country really that backwards? Or did I just have dumb luck? I have bought online for family - wines, flowers, books, cd's - but now that I come to think of it, it was all through UK and French sites...

We're now six days later, and I will clearly miss my brother's birthday. If anyone has suggestions on how to buy this stuff, let me know...

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May 23, 2005

Becoming boring - daring - and getting dumped on

This past weekend, Joi Ito reflected on what he writes about these days vs what he may have written about a year ago (here)

"However, as I read criticisms in the comments and on other blogs about what I write, I have become increasingly sensitive about what I say here. The criticism is often valid. "Check your facts before you post." "Read before you write." "Don't be so self-obsessed." "That was stupid." "The tone of your post was offensive to me." "So this guy posts every time he's 'off' to somewhere new."
Because of that he feels that his blogging is maybe becoming too broad and boring. Hmm...I hope not!

That inspired Halley Suitt to write a pretty thoughtful and honest piece about her perceptions of rich and snobby suburbia and how she increasingly feels alienated by it all (here). As I was reading her article I was both laughing and feeling deep empathy for what she is going through. While for very different reasons, I too ask myself many of the same questions - and I am sure that lots of people do.

But then you get to the comment section and she gets dumped on...concluding that "The blogosphere has become so contentious, it seems like no matter what you write, people jump all over your ass." Maybe Joi Ito's idea of switching to autoblogger is not such a bad idea after all...

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May 19, 2005

Revenge of the "C"th

As I was driving to a meeting this morning, I kept thinking about all those companies that monitor their employees (see previous post) - and it reminded me of the proverbial A, B and C people that we find in companies.

The story goes something like this.

  • A people love people who are smarter than them and so they hire other A people
  • B people are intimidated by people that are smarter than them and so they hire C people
  • C people know that they have no right to be in the job that they are in, so they weave a web of processes around themselves as job protection (eventually it chokes the company)

You think that "C" people are responsible for all this monitoring stuff? No? So, do you think that 76% of the people electronically monitor web surfing at home as well?

Definitelly a far cry from what we envisioned in 2001 about the future of the workplace (see here - some people asked for those, which were part of the proceedings of the event)

eWorkplace workers.jpg

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Corporate employee surveillance...

The American Management Association yesterday released its "2005 ELECTRONIC MONITORING & SURVEILLANCE SURVEY"(here - requires registration, but free). The numbers are awful - "76% monitor web surfing, 36% of employers tracking content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard, and 55% retaining and reviewing email messages". At least "fully 80% inform workers that the company is monitoring content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard".

Ok, I guess that means no individual rights in the workplace.I also wonder what would happen if companies would spend as much time and energy on innovation in the workplace instead - what do you think would happen?

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May 13, 2005

[off topic...maybe not] Humor sites for tweens

My son (a tween) just sent me an email with a link to a clip that he loves (here).

To me, it's fascinating to see what young kids get a kick out of these days. When it comes to politics, he and his friends can get laughs for (what seems like) hours watching (no endorsements here...) this.

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May 10, 2005

I have been practicing this for years - laughter yoga...

But now I know that I am not alone (laughter yoga). I found this and many other very interesting links in Dan Pink's latest book - A Whole New Mind.

It's a great book about how people will have to be much more "right-brain" in order to get ahead. While I did not intend this post to be a book review - there are much better reviewers than me (as in here, here and here) - I did want to point to it because it is very insightful, and full of interesting facts and links.

Another example from the book that will calm many parents with video game-playing kids is when he says:

"Indeed, a growing stack of research is showing video games can sharpen many of the skills that are vital in the Conceptual Age (that's the right-brain thing). For instance, an important 2003 study in the journal Nature found an array of benefits to playing video games. On tests of visual perception, game players scored 30% higher than non-players."
Other useful links:
  • want to measure your emphaty quotient - go here
  • your emotional intelligence quotient - go here)

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May 6, 2005

More is better

I started this blog as an experiment – what better way to experience this entire new tech boom than by building and playing in the sandbox directly. But now that I am getting some real traffic, I figured I’d better start thinking about adding value for the reader without turning this into a full time job. So I decided to ask a few other marketers in the area to blog with me and turn this blog into a group blog (which, btw, I see as a viable model for many blogs).

One of the first people to come to mind was an early marketing mentor of mine who thought me a lot about the field of marketing – Gabe D’annunzio. Gabe, the self-proclaimed “marketing thaumaturg” - was my partner when we first organized InterAct’96 (the first large scale virtual event on the web), and he was also the person who introduced me to Mr. Rogers’s neighborhood (Everett Rogers – the father of the diffusion of innovation theory – see book here - which you may have been introduced to through the work of Geoffrey Moore – another one of my favorite authors).

As we move forward we may add other people – but for now there will be two of us blogging.

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May 5, 2005

Lucky to be born today ;-)

I know, I know...good blogging practice calls for staying on topic...but who cares, I do have a "random brainsquall" category!
Today is 05/05/05...and that will not happen for another 100 years (ok, there are 12 such dates this century - still cool to have as a birthday).

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Posted by francois at 6:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Bookmark This | Linking Posts

Let's make the new web technologies more accessible

While many of us get excited about all the new technologies out there and their potential to change the way we do many things - work, archive, collaborate, innovate, market, sell, etc.- we need to realize that there are very few people that remotely understand what we are talking about. Business Week's Blogspotting blog today lists a few reader responses to their issue on blogging (here) that illustrates that point. They conclude that "the knowledge gap between the blog world's insiders and outsiders is wide enough for six lanes of Hummer traffic".

But even when a broader set of people will understand what this is all about, widespread adoption will not happen until the new tools become more "approachable" and more tightly integrated with one another. Have you ever tried editing a page at Wikipedia? Or tried to show someone how to add a bullet list in a movable type posting?

I know, there are great efforts out there to make a lot of these applications more user friendly. But its not just that, they also need to be seamlessly integrated with one another. With the same piece of information I may want to "social tag" it one day (i.e., save and share with others), "blog" about it another (i.e., provide commentary and share with others), or "wikitize" it (i.e., share and collaborate with others). Unless this all happens from within the tools through which we access that information only innovators and early adopters will tinker with it, and broad adoption will not happen.

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May 2, 2005

Business Week's Blog on Blogging

Business Week's new Blog - Blogspotting - is a great blog to follow. It's informative (as with the post on Pew Internet research claiming that 9% of internet users now blog!), well written and every now and then outright funny.

Funny as when Stephen Baker discovers that now that he is blogging, his family is thinking that what he's doing during weekends looks a lot like "work" (I am sure many bloggers go through this phase). Or funny as when he discovers that a new religion blog contains Google ads for meeting "sexy black people" (here). That is better than the one where Prison Pete's blog (here) shows Google ads for correctional furnishings and pcs inmate phone systems.

I have been resisting to write about why people blog, because so many people do just that. But if it is true that 9% of the US Internet users blog – then that is getting mainstream folks to blog. And that raises the question – why do mainstream people blog?

Some probably like to have their "live" resume out there for everyone to see, some others are probably seeking to build a reputation amongst people whom they don't know, some see it as part of doing business (e.g., PR professionals, writers, etc.) and many probably look at it as an experiment. When I was discussing this with my friend Pito, he suggested an interesting alternative reason. In this increasingly freelance economy, many are probably using blogs as their “virtual” water cooler. With no one else around to talk about your random brain squalls you post them on your blog and hope that some conversation emerges out of that. I like that!

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April 30, 2005

Forgive me - but I will no longer respond to email!

A recent study commissioned by HP finds that email, instant messaging and cell phone reduces your IQ by 10 points - twice as much as dope! (see article in Red Herring here)

Hopefully rss and blogs don't have the same effect...

...but wait, why would HP fund such research?

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April 26, 2005

Bypass interactive voice response hell!

Have you ever been stuck in a company's interactive voice response (IVR) system? I have - and not too long ago (see here).

Help is actually here! Today a friend of mine, Paul English, pointed me to one of his personal web pages where he keeps track of the codes to bypass the most popular companies' IVR system and talk to a human quickly (here). If you know of a company's code, you can help update the directory by submitting the codes directly into his Quickbase (large companies only, please...let's not spam this great service)!

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Any self-defense against unwanted links?

The other day I was looking through my log and spotted a robot from linksmanager. Knowing that an online reputation is built primarily on “incoming” links – this is another way to “buy” an online reputation. And these are not the only kind of “artificial” links that get created – there is also trackback spamming, comment spamming, tag spamming, search engine spamming, and I am sure I am missing a ton of them.

That got me thinking. Is there any known self-defense mechanism in other large complex systems against these unwanted – at least from the point of view of the system as a whole – viruses (i.e., links)?

It sounds to me that if we can build self-organized libraries, encyclopedias, news sites and the like, we should be able to build a self-organized inoculation system against those viruses…

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April 24, 2005

Knowing when to log off…

A friend of mine sent me an article which was recently published in the Chronicle Of Higher Education (“Knowing when to log off" – April 22nd – requires subscription – but I found other articles on the same subject like this one in the Seattle Times). Yesterday the BBC spoke of similar research done at some English University (update 4/25 - I found a copy of that here).

The bottom line, they claim, is that we are being bombarded with way too much information – most of it being SPAM of some sorts. The result is that we have less time for “thinking” and many of us are developing some kind of attention deficit deficiency. All of that, the researchers say, does not bode well for education/academia/innovation and even people’s health. They all call for “switching off” technology every now and again.

I am not sure what to think about this. After all – the speed at which information will be published will continue to increase exponentially (I think it’s one of those things driven by a power law!). And while technologies to help us sort through all this stuff will improve dramatically over time, I also think that people will have to develop new skills to scan through larger amounts of information.

All of that being said, I find myself reading less books and more online content – some more meaningful than others. Is this a bad thing? Am I less creative because of it? I am really not sure…

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April 18, 2005

Why is it so hard to change?

The new edition (May issue - here) of Fast Company has an interesting article on change. The number is frightening - 90% of people resist change – even if it’s a matter of life or death. That number is the number of people that underwent coronary-artery bypass grafting who maintained a changed diet 2 years after the surgery. But that same number gets confirmed in other cases as well.

There are some really interesting lessons in the article – one being that using “facts” to convince somebody to change rarely works. What needs to change is the frame in which those facts are being evaluated. For example – most people think of a company as an army, with hierarchies, orders coming from the top, etc. If people were to have the frame of a company as a family they would know very different ways of working together. In order to change someone frame’s, you need a very simple emotional story that goes way beyond the facts –and you need to be able to evoke positive experiences.

Another interesting lesson for me as a marketer is that joy motivates people more than fear.

Research also discovered that people are more likely to change if the change is radical rather than incremental. That reminded me of some research at MIT (Wanda Orlikowski) that came to similar conclusions – that change (and innovation) in a company was more likely to happen if there was an unexpected disruptive change (i.e., an earthquake, a fire), than if there was not. I am on the road now but will look for that study when I am back.

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April 10, 2005

Sunday morning musings on identity and culture

My son learned how to smith bronze and steel, and he learned how to fish with nets (and how to cook it too). He tells me that sometimes there is speculation in the coal market which makes it more profitable for him to sell coal outright rather than to mine it for smithing. He also plays with teams – sometimes with people from other states or other countries, like Australia, New Zealand, or Sweden. This morning he was the only American on a team full of Belgians – most of whom he never met. As the game progressed they were talking to one another in Dutch while switching to English when they wanted my son to do something. All along my son kept talking to them in English about his position, his recommendations and other things. The other day, there was a 45 year old woman on his team. And one of his regular team mates is a college kid in Europe. He is a member of a guild in one world and also a member of a clan in another. His friends go by names like doodleman, intelogix, shady, and chainsonic.

If you have not figured it out by now, my son, like millions of others around the world is playing in digital worlds like RuneScape, Halo2, Tony Hawk Underground and others. He interacts with other through chat or VoIP (I read somewhere that Xbox Live has the largest VoIP user base.)

Sometimes, I wonder how these new interactions will affect their sense of “self”, their identities, or what impact it will have on cultures…

It's easy to understand the benefits of virtual worlds like the ones sponsored by the Starbright Foundation, where severely ill children can play with others in virtual worlds from hospital beds – thus forgetting their ills for awhile and appearing like everyone else in those make-believe worlds.

We adults know that on the internet “nobody knows that you are a dog” (remember that cartoon?), and that is part of the fun. But what does it do to kids that are spending part of their formative years online?

About ten years ago I read the book Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet by Sherry Turkle, a Professor of the sociology of science at MIT. She says it is good for them to experiment with different personae. I can see that, but are those virtual personae competing for attention with the real life ones?

Maybe now is a good time to go and re-read that book…or maybe I’ll go re-read William Gibbson’s books…any other suggestions?

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April 7, 2005


A friend of mine pointed me to StumbleUpon last night (I feel like I am becoming a bit of a tech's really hard to stay up to date these days). I took a quick peak and it looked real interesting. A quick search revealed some promising reviews like on Lockergnome and on Robin Goode.

But somehow it also gave me flashbacks to the first wave of innovative web companies that had cool stuff and are no longer here – anyone remembers zadu, third voice?

I know…it’s not quite the same…and times have changed...and in the end it really is all about emergent innovation in action - and fun to witness one way or the other.

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April 5, 2005

Information overload...

Wow...the number of Blogs focused on PR just went up from 30 last July to 180 today (according to the organizers of globalprnews 2.0 - via Constantin Basturea's weblog)

While this event sounds like a pretty interesting event (I am a firm believer in virtual events), it raises the bigger question of how to deal with information overload. As a marketer - how do I get through to people. As an enduser - how do I find the right content without wasting hours online everyday, and without resorting to the same sources all the time.

The good news is that there are part-solutions that emerge every day - blogs, RSS, tagging, social tagging, feed discovery, syndication, trust-based solutions, new collaboration metaphors (wikis, trackback, etc.), networking sites, filtering, (smart) aggregators, commenting, podcasting, and many more that I have probably not heard of yet.

The bad news is that most of these technologies are confined to a very small portion of the population. Indeed, according to a recent CNN Gallup poll (via Washington Post) only 3% of the population reads blog everyday, and 12% once or twice a month. According to Jupiter, only 6% have RSS readers at home.

Now with speed of adoption for new technologies increasing with every new technology wave, one can only hope that soon most of these tools will be broadly used. So I guess we better get ready!

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Posted by francois at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Bookmark This | Linking Posts

April 1, 2005

Screwing up a perfectly good thing... this may not be totally new anymore, but it got me ticked off enough that I wanted to write about it.

I have been a long time user (and champion) of Ofoto. The other day all Ofoto users received an email from the Kodak Chairman informing us that they were renaming the service to Kodak EasyShare Gallery. Kodak easwhatwasthatnameagain??? Here is another perfect example of how a big company can kill something so innovative...

Ofoto was not only catchy, easy to remember and above all easy to recommend to others. It also occupied a piece of "real estate" in my mind that was (mostly) associated with possitive attributes. Some corporate suit felt that this service would benefit from being renamed to the supremely bland "Kodak Easyshare Gallery"...I must be missing something...not only will I never remember the name of the service when I am at a party and want to recommend the service, but even if I did...the person I would recommend it to would never remember it (and I am not even talking about the fact that url is different from the name...a problem Ofoto did not have!) And that problem is of course exacerbated when I will try to recommend the service to my international friends (what the heck does EasyShare mean in French, Dutch or Urdu anyway?).

I am sure Kodak will spend a fortune trying to rebuild a brand around the new name. The problem with that is twofold...with a name like that it will not work (and in the process they killed a good brand)...and it is a total waste of shareholder money.

I was sufficiently offended by the stupidity of this move that I replied to the email (I thought I was responding to the Chairman of Kodak of course - since he wrote to me) and voiced my opinion on the subject...only to get an automated response saying:
"Greetings from KODAK EASYSHARE Gallery Customer Service. This is an automated reply to your response to our recent email; so a customer service representative will not be replying to your message.
1. To quickly find answers to your questions ..."

Sell your stock if you have any...some companies will never get it!

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