Bissellator's Weblog Michael Bissell's Blog Wed, 17 Dec 2008 23:01:58 +0000 en hourly 1 Using Dissent To Enhance Your Social Influence Online was an inflammatory article earlier last weekend on LinkedIn titled “Why We No Longer Need HR Departments”. There were a few decent suggestions in the article, but the majority of the author’s assumptions showed a decided lack of understanding of just what HR *does*. I saw it late last Sunday and wrote a rebuttal from an HR point of view. The result? Over 2000 “likes” and agreements with my comment, 108 replies (both agreeing and disagreeing) and over 30 LinkedIn requests to me based on my reply.

This is one way you can build your professional online brand. Dissenting with someone that takes a stand on something you disagree with, and supporting your side of the argument professionally shows a Subject Matter Expertise that gets noticed, and is at the heart of having “social influence”, which can also be translated as “your reputation”.

Dissenting with such an obviously provocative statement or theory does carry risks. Upsetting the status quo or having the appearance of trying to persuade people to change their thinking can be detrimental to your online reputation if you are not confident in your assertions and able to back up your own statements with data and anecdotal evidence.

For those professionals with a lot of experience in the field but that are still trying to get a handle on social media, start small. You don’t have to take a diametric opposition to an online piece like I did. You can disagree with points, or even question some of the assumptions the writer is making. The point is just to show an intelligent response to the original piece that offers a different viewpoint. Your goal is to get noticed and attract like-minded individuals (such as hiring managers and industry leaders) to want to know more about you.

This week my favorite radio station was talking about how poorly Lady Gaga’s current album is doing in relation to her last one, and one of the DJ’s attributes her success directly to a fallout she had with Perez Hilton in the last year or two. He called for a boycott of her latest album, and her sales are much weaker. This is an extreme example of how social influence can affect a career, and a good model to learn from.
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 15:52:22 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Industry Profile - Author road to becoming a published author is long. It starts with an idea...a topic, a person, a plot. Before anyone starts thinking of publishers, agents or editors they have a lot of work to do. First, of course, is writing an initial draft. And your first draft is the very basic starting point. There are an almost infinite number of resources on the market that will help you with the process of writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, revising, etc. For any sort of novelist, I highly recommend a critique group. For a non-fiction writer (including biography, memoir, self-help, history or non-textbook) manuscript you need to have readers along the way. These readers should not just be friends and family, who will think anything you write is wonderful. They should be subject matter experts, other published authors, book critics, editors, or someone that will give you an honest and fairly unbiased opinion. Until you have gone through several evaluation cycles by your peers, you don't need to worry about anything else. This part of the process, honing your manuscript, can take weeks, months or even years. But until you are sure it is as clean as you can make it, you aren't ready to think about publishing.

Once you do reach the stage where you feel ready to send your creation out into the world, you have one very important question to ask yourself: are you absolutely committed to your work as is, or are you open to changes? Because the truth is that unless you are ready to have it changed, re-worked, and otherwise edited, it is pointless to even consider trying the "traditional" publishing route. If you are open to having someone you have never met tell you they are interested if you make this, that or the other change, the next thing you need is a thick skin: rhino, elephant or armored tank thick. Because the odds are you will get rejected several if not dozens or hundreds of times.

If you are committed to keeping your baby "as is", you are looking at a couple of choices via the self-publishing route (this includes epublication such as an ebook via Amazon). In the hard-copy realm you have two basic choices: a vanity press or print-on-demand (POD). A vanity press will publish your book in quantity and ship it to you once you have signed the contract and paid the fees for printing and shipping. Print-on-demand is just what it sounds like: your work isn't printed until someone orders it. A vanity press prints your manuscript, may secure your ISBN number, ships it, and you are done financially with them. A POD service will generally charge you an upload fee, and may also charge you a percentage of royalties for each order. If you choose the ebook route, there are a number of ways you can get your manuscript formatted; basically an ebook is a .pdf file that is encrypted against digital duplication.

For any of the self-publishing options, I highly recommend at the very least a professional copywriter, and wholeheartedly suggest you hire an independent editor to help make your work the best can be. A freelance editor should be able to provide you with references and examples of work s/he has done.

The most recent iteration of innovation in publishing has been epublishing. For a decade or so, epublishers such as Ellora's Cave, Samhain, Loose-Id,offered online downloadable .pdf files of authors that were often novella length. The cost was significantly less than hardback/paperback print versions. These online publishers had varying levels of editorial support available, depending on their business model. Then came the Nook and Kindle. Originally designed as an alternate delivery method for publishers to reach their audience, when Amazon opened the door to CreateSpace and self-publishing on Amazon, the literary industry was irrevocably changed. Now anyone can self-publish on the single largest bookstore in the world. The royalties are much greater from a percentage standpoint but the price per unit is significantly smaller. So a 70-80% royalty structure might sound really good, but if your ebook is only selling for $2.50, that works out to significantly lower profit than 20% of a $8-9 trade paperback. At that point it is all sales. If you can get 2 million people to purchase your ebook, obviously you are looking at a significant profit. But if you only have 300 people purchase your ebook on Amazon, you might be lucky to clear $500.

There are major tradeoffs between traditional publishing and self-publishing. The most notable are financial and operational support, with quality control also being a major differentiator. When a large publisher makes the commitment to publish your book, you are generally paid a royalty advance, to give you the time to finish your book or create another. In addition, you receive the services of professionally recognized editors that generally have years of experience making a manuscript the best it can be. You also have the huge advantage of a professional marketing department and multiple distribution channels. In return for these not insignificant advantages, you give the publisher a hefty portion of the profits, and they control the distribution of the royalties with exclusive distribution and dissemination rights. There are also small presses, which offer much less in the way of marketing support but which you may have better chance of being published. Most of them do not pay advances, but they do offer editing and reviewers. There are many discussions on Absolute Write about the advantages, pitfalls, and warning signs about small presses.

Let's talk covers for a moment. One major misconception many beginning authors have about traditional presses is that they will have significant input and decision-making on their covers. You don't. Covers sell books, and all presses have dedicated artists or departments they work with that not only know the setup needed to create a book cover, but also to make sure publisher's brand is consistent. Publishers are in the business of selling books, and like everything else, there are trends in what sells. It used to be that an artist could create a cover and it would be photographed and then typeset. Nowadays, covers tend to be a combination of photos/digital art, depending on the genre or subject of the book. Obviously if you are self-publishing you have full decision making over the art for your cover, but make sure you use art that won't be detrimental to your book; when in doubt, go with a plain or abstract cover.

One question often arises for those pursuing traditional publishing: do I need an agent? The first thing to understand about agents is that they are the equivalent of an executive headhunter. They choose their clients based on the content of their manuscripts so they tend to be selective. Most have a range of genres they specialize in; they may be niche or broad, depending on factors such as agency size, the backgroound/s of their employees, and industry contacts. They generally take a 15%+ cut of publication royalties for each project. That may seem like a lot, but here is what you get from agent representation: direct access to publishers (submitted on you behalf) and contract negotiation expertise. Since your agent makes their living off of your deal, you are guaranteed they will get you the best contract terms possible. Publication contracts are a breed apart, so if you don't use an agent, at the very least do yourself a favor and use an attorney to review your contracts *that has a specialty in publication contract law.* You should consider submitting to an agent for representation if you A) have an accepted manuscript and want their negotiation services B) you aren't sure where to submit your manuscript directly C) you have previously submitted your manuscript, had it rejected from a significant number of publishing houses and you have made major changes. In the case of A, if you have been offered a multi-book deal, a one-time attorney fee may make more sense.

For those pursuing the traditional publishing route and an agent, it is absolutely vital that you do research to find reputable agents and for anyone that is using an independent editor, the same holds true. There are several online resources such as Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write, Query Tracker, Publisher's Marketplace (subscription), Association of Authors' Representatives, and good old fashioned professional word of mouth from friends/peers. Get references *and check them out*. LinkedIn has several writing Groups you can join at no charge to solicit feedback from other members. One trick to finding an agent is to read the dedications and forewards from your favorite authors; often they will name their agents in their thanks. You can also run a Google search on other authors to find out who their agents are; truthfully, it is pretty rare for a professional author not to have an agent. An agent can represent you on different projects to different publishers if you decide to branch out in your work. It is also very possible that attending writer's conferences that have agents and industry editors at them will result in finding the right contacts. Just make sure that, as with any other professional relationship, you get a written contract explicitly spelling out expectations and fees.

Probably the most important thing to understand about being an author is knowing that this is not a profession that is likely to make you *rich*. Even the NY Times Bestsellers don't all make millions. Being an author is a career option, but there are many authors that have "day jobs" or other external careers. Remember, if you are writing with any expectation of selling that you are creating a *product*, and that means you are to a great degree subject to the marketplace, in this case your readers. There was a question over on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago about whether or not an author should be required to change his "voice". His small press publisher closed shop, and no one else was interested in picking up his very narrowly-focused voice, which was that of someone from a very specific part of the UK, in dialogue, setting, characterization, etc. Lots of people were saying that no, an author should not pander to the marketplace if it was "inauthentic", but my response was that if he depends on writing is his livelihood, then he needs to create product that people will *buy*. Otherwise, writing is an investment of time, emotion, and effort into nothing more than a literary exercise.

Tue, 10 Sep 2013 07:42:13 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Industry Profiles – Full Time Employees - Professional Writer is a supercharged subject for me both personally and professionally. Obviously, I’m a writer. I had a (paid) career advice column for a year and a half for the Seattle Times. I’m on the Board of Directors for a local non-profit that puts on writer’s conferences every year (and I have been attending for almost 10 years.) I started writing fiction about 10 years ago; and being a recruiter I pursued the profession from a job hunting perspective, which a lot of people don’t seem to understand. I’ll touch on that later.

I’m going to break the “writer” profession into separate postings. First I will cover full-time employees that are paid to write, then freelance professionals and finally I will wrap up with a discussion on published authors (books).

There was a discussion over on LinkedIn a few weeks ago about finding “creative writing jobs”. There are very few “jobs” that will pay you to be a creative writer. If you are being paid to write something, you don’t have carte blanche to write your own content and expect someone else to monetize it. Generally, you are given content subjects, writing guides/style manuals, a specific word count, and a strict deadline. The person that started the discussion wanted someone to offer him a salaried position to write poetry. About the only “job” you will get in this medium is working for a greeting card company.

So what sorts of jobs can you get as a paid, professional writer on a salary? Advertising and PR firms still hire writers to work on branding slogans/campaigns for clients. That is about the best “creative” writing job you will get, but it’s still going to be someone else’s guidelines. The “marcomm” role has changed significantly over the last decade or so (Marketing Communications) as marketing as an industry has changed (see my prior posting on the Marketing Industry). A lot of young professionals want to be “social media” content writers/editors/managers. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t all about writing 140-character pithy pitches. This a pure marketing job that delivers analytics-based campaigns supporting the corporate branding strategy. These days, “marketing” communications as it relates to generating content is a small portion of a larger position.

The time-honored “Technical Writer” role was a haven for many English and Communications majors graduating in the late 80’s and through the 90’s. The technical writer is mainly employed in two industries: technology/software, and the scientific/life sciences arena. The role of the tech writer is to take technical/scientific concepts and “translate” them for people. For example, the “help” function in any software program is often written by a technical writer; white papers, help manuals, design specifications, business analyses. But, as you can imagine, this skill is used in conjunction with another: deep expertise in a technical/scientific realm. There is a fair amount of research that is done with other professionals within the organization in order to create a comprehensive set of information. That being said, I queried several friends that have been long-time Tech Writers, and the consensus is that you need to able to learn a vast array of subjects, digest them, and then “translate” that information back into understandable language for the lay person. The more you can do that, the more employable you are. If you are able to learn those technical or scientific concepts that need “translation” then that is your most applicable skill. I have seen a shift in the tech realm away from the profession of “technical writer” towards an inclusion of the role into “human centered design”, a philosophy that mixes usability and product management.

In a related vein, if you are interested in the non-profit world, there are organizations that employ grant writers. This is a very specialized skill, as each grant award has very specific guidelines and you have to learn the ins and outs of the process. I asked a good friend of mine who writes grants regularly for her scientific research job how one would go about *getting* a grant writing job with no experience, and this was her suggestion: “I suggest they team up with an experienced writer. I got my start with non-profits by volunteering. The best way to learn to write grants, in my opinion, is to find successful grant applications. My first 100% self-written grant, I got other T32s, and followed the format.”
If you really enjoy learning something really well and then writing about it, there may be positions in law or government, including attorneys (they write extensively, mostly “briefs”), paralegals, speech-writers, congressional aides, and lobbyists. Of course becoming an attorney means going to law school, but a law degree can open up a lot of doors involving writing and communication overall.

Journalists do still exist, although full time, paid-by-a-paper-or-magazine roles are quickly diminishing as the face of the publishing industry is changing. You might have luck writing copy for a local news station (TV/Radio), or else you will want to work for a publication with a fairly large circulation. Most of the jobs for magazines and larger publishing entities are going to be in New York City. In the same vein, you may find jobs as a copywriter or copy editor at those same publications, but a full-time position is now the exception rather than the norm.

So let’s segue into publication, as it’s a good transition. These days, most editors, copywriters, and journalists are self-employed freelancers. With the advent of the internet, e-books like the Kindle and the Nook, the need for full time publishing house editors and copywriters has fallen drastically. The majority of newspapers and magazines have had articles submitted by freelance journalists for decades. “Publishing” is changing drastically. Newspapers are being replaced by news aggregators. Magazines are still in existence, but most of them are online now and if they hope to continue making money, it is my opinion that they will eventually go all digital. There are still editorial positions here and there at traditional publishing houses, major newspaper/magazines, and sometimes you can get a job as an editor working for a literary agent (you may end up becoming an agent as well.) But most of what you do as an agent is read, not write. The same with publishing houses/publications. The role of the editor is to fix bad writing, so you need to know/understand that if you decide to go this route. New/junior editors at traditional publishing houses in New York are known to be woefully underpaid, and several of my own personal contacts had to work second or even third jobs to pay their bills until they had a decade or more under their belts.

"Jobs", as in full-time paid employee status, for writers are diminishing quite a bit. However, freelance opportunities and a variety of different publishing options are increasing daily.
Thu, 9 May 2013 17:30:28 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Some Thoughts On Freelancing is interesting to look at the two ends of the spectrum of what constitutes "freelance" professionals and everything in between. At the youthful end of the spectrum, we see the Digital Natives (Millennials, GenY). This generation wants flexibility, to run their own show, to get paid well for their talents. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, I think it's fantastic to see young professionals plying their chosen professions and making an honest living at it.

At the other end of the spectrum, you will find the Boomers and older GenX'ers, and many of them have "put out their shingles" out of necessity. In a recession, many companies have been loath to hire older professionals with decades of experience. There are still very few industries and companies that provide "exit strategies" for aging professional populations. There does come a point in a professional's life when they are ready to start winding down, and unfortunately it isn't always easy to do so without looking like you are "giving up." More mature workers still have bills to pay, children in college, and retirement savings to contribute to.

There is also a band in the middle, those professionals that have chosen to be freelance professionals for a variety of reasons, many of them having to do with work-life balance. I know several professionals (especially women) in their mid-thirties to early forties that decided to go the freelance route to devote time to their young families. Often these professionals have a spouse or partner that can provide benefits, a steady paycheck, and some stability.

Some professions will always be "freelance"; authors, artists, and solo musicians often are freelance professionals by default. Real estate agents, many bookkeepers, accountants, massage therapists, hair stylists are almost all are considered "freelance" if they aren't employed by corporations. There are advantages and disadvantages to the freelance lifestyle. I was recently looking for a part-time graphic designer to work onsite 20 hours a week. It's a great opportunity for someone that has a solo business but also wants to have some stability and get a steady paycheck. I will say that almost every professional that we brought back for a second interview was someone that was excited about collaborating with a team, being in an atmosphere where there is an energy to the work space. The person we just made an offer to was *genuinely excited* about the opportunity, in contrast to the other five people we considered. One of the biggest drawbacks for many solo practitioners is the isolation of not having regular contact with colleagues.

I have interviewed a lot of freelance or small business consultants over the last few years. One of my close friends finally had to close up shop after over ten years because of the overhead cost, and an offer to work for a company managing their on-site consulting at a Fortune 100 company. He was sad at losing his autonomy, the office he had gone to every day, and there was a sense of failure. On the flip side, he didn't have to worry about trying to sell his services, he now gets to concentrate on what he is good at, has full health benefits, he gets a regular paycheck and doesn't stress about paying the bills. It was a positive tradeoff for him.

Most people starting out forget that a major part of your efforts are going to be related to *running a business* and *developing your client base* (read: sales and marketing). Make sure you understand the costs you are going to incur as you figure out your fee scale. Know the tax laws for your city/county/state, and hire yourself a good accountant. Get your business license before you do *anything else*. (Check your state's website under "licensing" for information on filing a business license.) Keep your personal and professional monies separate. Pay yourself only out of the profits from your business after you satisfy the costs you have (things like taxes, supplies, electricity, your health care and 401k contributions, your internet connection/website hosting fees, cell phone bill, etc.) Just remember, if you are setting out on your own, your business is with you 24x7, and no one else will do it for you. Get EVERYTHING in writing; bids, contracts, invoices. In this day and age, you are only as good as your business practices. The money you make is built on your own sales efforts and expertise at whatever you do professionally. Keep your reputation clean, and if a client doesn't treat you professionally, remember that you can pull out of the relationship at any time.

I found this great calculator a few years ago which is very helpful for budgeting .

If you don't know what you should be making as a salaried employee, check out either or by zip code.

Being independent is great for some people, and not so much for others. Only you can make that determination and make a go of it in the business world.
Wed, 20 Mar 2013 19:58:27 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Building Your Online Brand belong to and manage/moderate several online groups; this includes groups on Yahoo!, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I have been *asked* to help with several of them because of my fairly consistent presence and the fact that I try to keep up the integrity of discussion groups by barring and being vigilant about spam. Beyond that, I have intentionally created a very definitive, multi-faceted online presence.

My brand tends to revolve in two different main categories: recruiting/HR and career management, and writing/publishing. Being a well-known recruiter in Seattle and other markets is a byproduct of my career choices. I would like to state, for the record, that I did not “choose” recruiting; it chose me. Before I got into recruiting, I did a lot of content management (via content management systems and databases) and prior to that mostly I worked in administrative or customer service roles. My career was not planned, it was accidental and the result of me taking chances, seizing opportunities, and learning as much and as quickly as I could to build a diversified skill set. So the content management piece is truly the bedrock of my online presence, coupled with my 10 years in recruiting/HR. I’ve been writing since just before I got into recruiting, so they are somewhat synonymous.

So let’s define a couple of concepts: “online” and “brand”.

When I talk “online” I mean it all: social media, pictures, articles and research papers, your high school yearbook, the synagogue directory that publishes your cell phone number, the online petition you signed in 1992 banning xyz in your community. Yes, that’s right. There are things online that you may not even be aware of. I am an expert researcher when it comes to finding people. I was once challenged with finding contact information from a friend for a mutual favorite actor. An hour later, I had his cell phone number and called it. His daughter answered (I asked for someone ridiculous and she said “no, this is X”). It was on a tennis club directory in his hometown. My point is, there is a lot more than you think online with your name on it. You cannot control everything, but you can consciously create a professional brand in the areas you want to be recognized as an expert, and when you have enough of an online footprint, some of the more esoteric items fall far away as less important.

Now for your brand. Very simply this is an image, concept, profession, or “persona” (if you will) that you want to be recognized as. You can deliberately manage this, or you can let it evolve organically. If you choose not to manage your brand, be aware that it can be the subject of negative influence from others.
This piece is about deliberately managing your brand, and doing so online. How are some ways you can create a recognizable, strong positive brand?

-Decide on how you want to be recognized. By your profession? Are you trying to use your name or another sort of persona to define your brand? A unique concept? Your hobby? Keep in mind that two things are going to be the easiest to manage: either your name (unless you have a common name like “Joe Smith”) or a strong, singular concept, possibly including a nickname. Use it for you social media profiles like your Twitter handle, Pinterest identity, and make sure it’s part of your LinkedIn profile and your blog.

-What is your “angle” as an expert? In my case, my blog melds my experience as a recruiter and writer in a no-nonsense series of articles about job hunting from the hiring side of the equation. I had a career-advice column on the Seattle Times, I’m well-known in the local recruiting and tech communities, and this is how I have concentrated my own brand. One of my professional colleagues is a Talent Sourcer, and her brand is “Research Goddess” (and yes, she is.) Even my volunteer work involves recruiting and onboarding for the local chapter of an international non-profit. To create a strong “brand” you need to have a consistent message and voice, if you will. You don’t want to be just one more widget maker from New York. What makes YOU the best, most knowledgable widgeteer in the Big Apple?! (Notice the self-created title and referring to New York City by its casual moniker? That is branding.)

-Share information. This means building community with your peers/colleagues, and anyone else you might want to “know” you! Tweet articles of interest; comment on blogs (and write one!); if you disagree with something written, professionally state *why* you don’t and support it with your expertise. Thoughtfully disagreeing with something online is a great way to create an intricate reputation as someone that is “in the know”. Join LinkedIn groups relevant to your brand, and answer questions. Ask them if appropriate (but see my blog on “LinkedIn for Professional Writers” on how not to use LinkedIn.) Start a Pinterest board that has to do with your online brand and persona, and share the pins with your Facebook and Twitter followers and friends.

-Be a “curator”. Nowadays, content is king; but what if you don’t know how or don’t have enough time to create a stellar amount of content (highly unlikely given the rise of Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook images)? Become a “curator”, which means you create a centralized repository of information. In the old days (you know, the 20th century) this concept would have been akin to a portal. Here is a great primer. Curation is about you creating and maintaining (that is a key concept) a repository of online content grouped around a specific theme. You create a destination for people of like minds/interests to your own.

-Let the “real you” shine through in some places. These days everyone connects with their online personas, and if you are all business all the time, you come across as shallow or insincere. So don’t be afraid to put a little bit of personality into your online branding. An example would be my twitter account. I post a few things every now and then about books, travel, favorite bands, and hobbies that are not going to be considered in poor taste. I retweet and “favorite” certain amusing tweets just because they appeal to me, and follow public celebrities, but I am mindful not to do so with things that could be considered slanderous or highly controversial. An occasional picture of your dog, or a video from your vacation in Disneyland add a bit of personality to your online social persona. On Facebook, I often will post “Dear…(Candidate, Hiring Manager, Colleague)” amusing anecdotal “rants”. (A recent example: “Dear Colleagues: I know this may come as a total shock to you, but we in recruiting use your Outlook calendar to schedule interviews and meetings. This means we assume your calendar is up to date. As Nike says: JUST DO IT. Lack of planning on your part does not create an emergency on mine. Ciao.”)

-Keep your truly private life and your public persona separate. When Facebook recently changed their policies about searchability, I changed my private account by using a nickname for my display name, and I opened a new public account under my full name (including my middle initial and a different email address.) My private wall is where I share my views on politics, social issues, and details about my family life. I don’t want my friends and family to have *their* information revealed via a search for me and my views on things such as women’s rights or religion. As a recruiter, I am highly visible just because I’m posting jobs regularly.

-Create some sort of portfolio. Most people think you have to be in some sort of “creative” career to have a portfolio, but that isn’t true. If you are a software engineer, it will be coding samples. If you are a mechanic, it can be photos of work you have done (before/after shots) and discuss technique. A stock broker can have graphic representations of his successful wealth management strategies. A real estate agent should obviously have photos of the houses she has sold. An attorney can have a list of cases won and any articles or briefs published that are public record. A retail associate can take photos of products and outfits created/sold. It’s about merchandizing *yourself* in ways that are going to make sense to other people.

-Become well enough established in your local community that people ask you to speak on panels and deliver keynote addresses or teach seminars/classes. Record these sessions and then create a Youtube channel/podcast station, then cross-promote your expertise on all your social media channels. Put your presentation decks on Slideshare (keep them password protected and view-only to protect your intellectual property.) Create a reputation for yourself in the community as someone willing to chat and share knowledge. Be open and offer to conduct informational interviews to your local careercenters at colleges and the unemployment office. Volunteer for SCORE. Make the acquaintance of independent reporters, and be quoted in news media articles of interest in your profession.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas, but it should be enough for anyone to get a start. If you are job hunting or have thrown out your own shingle, this sort of activity is *crucial* to you to stand out from the competition. And as any recent college graduate or over-50 unemployed executive can tell you, it’s a jungle out there.

Thu, 7 Mar 2013 20:01:59 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Marissa Mayer and the Change in Yahoo's Remote Workforce is a huge hue and cry about a recent announcement from Yahoo! that they are going to change their remote, work-from-home culture and require their employees to go into the office. The Huffington Post labels the decision as "Marissa Mayer's Work-From-Home Ban Is The Exact Opposite Of What CEOs Should Be Doing", saying it is a step backwards.

Detractors are decrying this business decision, and I would like to point out a few things.

1) Marissa Mayer was hired to turn around a failing, irrelevant business. She was hired from Google, a company that is *known* for a close, collaborative atmosphere. If you have ever been to a Google office, you know that the company, one of the top 3 most successful brands *in the world*, does everything possible to make employees WANT to be there and work.

2) There is no mention of whether or not the remote culture was successful. My guess is that the company did an analysis of productivity and found that remote workers were less productive than they used to be. Obviously something isn't working for the business given their numbers the last few years.

3) The individuals that are so negative regarding this decision do not know that this is a permanent status; it may very well be a temporary decision for the company.

4) The outrage seems to be that Yahoo! isn't valuing the "need" for parents to have a flexible schedule for work life balance. Yahoo! isn't a daycare; it is a BUSINESS. If adults choose to have careers and families, it is their responsibility to make their lives balance, not their employer's. Employees are certainly free to seek other employment options if these changes don't "work" for them.

There are several large companies in the last few years that have had remote work forces that have made major cuts: Sun Microsystems and IBM both come to mind. I personally have friends at both companies that were adversely affected and were working from home. Both of them have had to move (one across country, one two states) to find jobs to support themselves.

I personally applaud Marissa Mayer for having the conviction to make changes and build a culture of productivity and collaboration. The future is flexible, especially in technology. We don't know what the future holds and whether this change will herald a revitalized Yahoo! or be a business debacle. Either way, change is definitely needed. ID#comments
Mon, 25 Feb 2013 10:42:26 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
LinkedIn for Professional Writers a recruiter, I know how valuable it is for a candidate to research a potential job, industry and organization before entertaining thoughts of becoming a candidate. To that end, when I decided I wanted to become a writer, I started doing my research *before* ever entertained thoughts of getting published. This was concurrent with writing my first manuscript draft. For me, that meant attending writer's conferences, local workshops, and generally learning about the publishing industry. They key to this is that I treated being a writer as a *job*, a professional endeavor.

I now have some clout as a former career advice columnist with the Seattle Times, and I am on the Board of Directors for a local non-profit that offers annual writing workshops. In the last seven years, I have become somewhat familiar with the business of being a writer. As a recruiter, I have to say that it appalls me how many hopeful writers don't treat their careers with the same thoughtfulness that they would any other job. I'm seeing more and more of this on LinkedIn, where I belong to several writer-centric groups. I have written a guest blog for a friend that is a freelance writer on how to use/not use LinkedIn for writers, and I'm going to expand upon it here.

LinkedIn Errors For Writers:

*Never post anything that isn't properly capitalized, spell-checked, or punctuated. Ever.

*Join groups/discussions and do absolutely nothing but promote yourself (your book/article, blog, appearances, etc.).

*Contact the wrong person; don't email the CEO of an agency when there are four agents that are accepting submissions in your genre at the agency.

*Get into inflammatory discussions on public forums. Remember that 1) LinkedIn is an international, multi-cultural venue 2) it is just as valid to pursue self publishing, Print on Demand, and ePublishing as it is a traditional publishing house; different writers have different needs 3) this is about building COMMUNITY; differing opinions and tastes add to the experience, not diminish it.

*Constantly name drop; it's annoying.

*Not be clear when asking for something/information. Make sure you use enough details when you are starting a discussion or asking a question. "Concise" should not be "cryptic". Conversely, don't ramble on and on.

*Use LinkedIn as a substitute for proper submissions.

*Badmouth industry professionals. This includes writers/authors, agents, editors, publishing houses, publications, etc. This is the fastest way to get a bad reputation.

*Send generic "I want to add you to my professional network" invitations. Freelance writers and authors should put EXTRA effort into contacting industry professionals.

*Post responses to questions or discussions that have already been said.

*Ask for recommendations or endorsements from people that barely (or don't) know your work.

*Post questions to the writing community that you could have answered yourself with one Google search.

*Get into dissenting discussions on religion, politics, or other "controversial" topics. Writers of any sort need to keep as much objectivity as possible.

*Over-post profile updates. LinkedIn is not Twitter or Facebook. Your "update" field should be used sparingly and for important things (like your upcoming release, or the contest on your website for readers, really interesting industry articles or announcements.)

*Have a profile that tries to show you as an expert in fifteen different things. If you are using LinkedIn as a writer, make sure your profile brands you as a writer (or agent, or editor.)

*Neglect an online portfolio. There are several apps you can use for free.

I would have to say that the two related errors that irritate me the most: "Not be clear when asking for something/information. Make sure you use enough details when you are starting a discussion or asking a question. "Concise" should not be "cryptic". Conversely, don't ramble on and on" and "Posting a question that you could have answered yourself with one Google search."

A recent example is:
"Anyone had any problems getting their work published? Does anyone know of any agencies who take on new writers? "

That's it. My response: "What do you mean by "problems"? Of course there are agencies that take on new writers; what kind of research have *you* done? What is your genre and how far along in the process are you? (i.e. do you have a completed manuscript for submission?)

The first thing I think when I see something like this is that the person that posted the question cannot write, and has never done any research; the second is that they are lazy. The truth of the matter is that "writing" is one of the most well-documented professions out there. More self-help books, blogs, and articles exist on "how to be a writer" than just about any other profession known to modern man. Being lazy like this sets the tone for your *professional brand as a writer*. To be honest, when someone posts something like this, asking if anyone else has ever had "problems" getting their work published, I also think that they probably aren't a very good writer, and that could be anything from not getting appropriate critiques, to not editing their work, to using poor grammar and spelling, to not following publishing submission guidelines posted.

Remember that LinkedIn is a professional forum, and especially as a writer you must be thoughtful about how/what you post. If you are a beginning writer, treat writing as a profession and follow the same guidelines you would for any other job.
Tue, 19 Feb 2013 11:44:41 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Fake Republican Twitter Accounts's election season, and so it's time to take a peek at the fake politicians on Twitter. Turns out, there's one guy or gal who's doing a bunch of fake Republicans. (I'll go with "guy" for choice pf pronoun.)

He's not trying actually make you think he's Sarah Palin or Rick Perry -- each of his fake accounts clearly says something to the effect of, "SATIRE :: THIS IS NOT [insert name]'s TWITTER ACCOUNT. A @guerriIIa op" which is good for two reasons. First off it's obviously political speech, and Twitter would have a hard time shutting him down and secondly, you can peer behind the mask and see... well, another anonymous account, but it makes it easier to find his other parodies.

A lot of the time he uses the upper case i substitution trick that I first noticed with Appibees but then there are the very similar account names like BofA_Services that he was able to grab before the bank -- again, it's obvious parody, not theft, so I don't think BofA could (or should) try to take it away from him.

Anyhow, here's the quick list:


There is no proof that Thesaurus actually existed and there is no reason our children should have to learn about them. Scientists are liars.

I was somewhat distracted at last night's debate. Rick Perry's wife and I do this thing where we bite each other subliminally. It's tingly.

Jesus didn't have Health Insurance, which explains why he died for the liberals. I hope some good conservatives were there to cheer him on.


BREAKING: Threat Level Raised To Armageddon Orange. Secretary @JanetNapoIitano Warns Americans: STAY NEAR TELEVISIONS. #DHS

Bank of America Proudly Offers FREE STREAMING PORNOGRAPHY to new customers opening Checking or Savings accounts. #911

Lockheed Martin would like to remind the US Government that our BUY 1 GET 1 FREE TACTICAL NUKE SPECIAL won't last forever. Patriot Act Now!


I have made your mistake a better thing than we have seen right now. All those fighters in the street - they are not artists. I am a LEGEND

If I were any skinnier, I'd be TOTALLY gorgeous.

And, one from @guerriIIa himself:

If you aren't ashamed of your own humanity when someone makes fun of a fat kid, you probably thoroughly enjoyed last night's debate.
Fri, 16 Sep 2011 01:17:17 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
"Did you mean?" -- Google's chiding nanny of search results am getting increasingly pissed off at programs that try to help me. I turned off the grammar check in MS Word back in 1997 and haven't turned it back on since. But now the same people who try to get us to all write like 5th grade Future Business People of America are invading every aspect of my life.

Predictive text may work if you write at a fifth grade level about going to the mall, but I'm constantly having to dismiss messages like "did you mean fun?" when I clearly meant gin. It's bad enough when I simply have the suggestions on Google which are slightly distracting while I'm trying to find something esoteric (and, no, I didn't mean the "praise band from Northside Church of Christ"), but often my phone decides that I really did mean something completely different and takes me there without an option to say, "no, no, geeze!!! NO!"

Not only am I burning bandwidth on my limited data plan on my phone, but I'm burning time, and more importantly, I'm burning concentration. When I meant something completely different than "And now for something completely different" I still get sucked into that Monty Python movie (yes, the entire movie) and forget all about the design specification I was working on for a client (sorry, client).

And the auto search results on Google aren't just distracting, and often wrong because I'm using a turn of phrase that sounds a lot like what other people are looking for, but the way they're displaying things so damn dynamically that when I click on a link that isn't quite right, I find that when I hit my "back" button I lose the search results that I had finally gotten Google to give me -- that familiar blank Google search bar is maddening when you have to type a complex boolean phrase to get away from pictures of Justin Bieber.

It reminds me of a movie I saw recently where the hero asked, "Don't I have free will?"

The response was, "No, you just have the appearance of free will. You can choose what brand of toothpaste to buy, but you're going to brush your teeth either way."

The little electronic decision makers piss me off not just because they distract me with glimpses of half naked women and humorous videos about a crazy frog, but because I feel that sense of free will slipping away every time I see Did you mean... on my search results.

It's like an electronic nanny chiding me for going off the path at the park: it doesn't matter if the answers to the universe are over the ridge, it's that everyone else is going down this path, and possibly off that cliff, but if everyone is doing it, then surely I meant...
Mon, 15 Aug 2011 09:34:28 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Branded Technology, I admit, I was drinking at the time I came up with the term, "Branded Technology," but even the next day it sounded like a nice little umbrella for all the web design, facebook apps, twitter homepages, mobile "experiences" and, well, all the technology that we try to get to express our client's brand. So I figured I'd ask other people what they thought.

It didn't go well.

I posted it as a question on LinkedIn, "What do you think of when you see the phrase 'Brand Technlogy'?" I got answers like these:
Schizophrenia. Sort of like "Sales Manufacturing" or "R&D in Accounting".
Nick Chuvakhin A jack of many trades and a master of some...

like a made up job-would get the card tossed
Terry Callendrillo Construction Safety Specialist

The first word that came to my mind was, "pretentious". The second word, or rather, group of words, were things like, "phony, b-school baloney, fraud", etc.
Mark van der Hoek Technology Development Engineer at Clearwire
I found it interesting that the more technical and/or engineering minded people were the, shall we say, more up front about thinking the idea was stupid. The couple of marketers that responded said things like this:
Using technology to market your brand...
Dave Maskin, a Tradeshow Booth Traffic Builder and Event Entertainer

You are creating a technology for a brand. I wouldn't really consider you like an ambassador in the digital field. I guess that is my take on it.
Jamie Favreau Entry Level, New Media

Not that either of those were particularly flattering -- I got a "Duh, you're using technology and branding" and a "Yeah, I see it but it doesn't do anything for me." Both of which are fair.

Actually, all of them are pretty much fair -- I hate made up phrases that obscure what we're actually doing, and so often, there's a perfectly good old fashioned thing that applies to the new fashioned world. We still have media buyers, even if they're buying Google Adwords. We still have programmers, even if they're doing "Web 2.0" programming. We still have brand management, and we still have technology.

And what really hasn't changed is that the techies and the marketers hate talking to each other. The guys running the presses didn't like the ad men, the directors never like the producers... "creative" and "production" are always at odds.

Which means that Nick Chuvakhin was actually right, what I'm trying to describe is schizophrenia. Only I don't know why he says "schizophrenia" like it's a bad thing...
Mon, 1 Aug 2011 17:08:05 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator -- Stealing more than GroupOn's Idea The Spa Upstairs started up, they ran a Living Social coupon for 50% off a facial and pedicure combo -- the coupon did great getting something like 500 new customers in a couple days. They've slowly paid for that outreach campaign with sweat by working off those 500 coupon deals, but they've gotten enough return business to make it worthwhile. And the coupon was structured to make just enough money that they didn't go broke servicing it.

The other day, however, the phone started ringing and people were asking to book an hour and a half massage for 30 bucks through something called "" Mind you, the spa wasn't running a coupon, and even if they were, they would never run something that would pay 15 bucks to a marketer and 15 bucks to the masseuse for an hour and a half of work.

The owner was pissed -- she had been cold called by a couple weeks earlier and turned down the offer to run the massage special. When she called them she got a long run around but eventually got them to retract the offer.

But then asked if she would honor the 30-40 coupons they had sold... Um. No.

This put the spa in an awkward position. There were now 30-40 people out there who felt ripped off and, even if the wrong place to direct that frustration, their frustration was wrapped up with the Spa Upstairs.

And, I kind of have to think that was the idea behind whoever pushed that coupon through. Cue the Mafioso voice... "Now, we wouldn't want youse guys to be annoying none of dem fine customers of yours, would we?" In other words, pay them and avoid a customer service nightmare that caused.

Whether it was an overzealous sales person, an accidental miscommunication or full on fraud by the company doesn't really matter. At the very least, should have not have tried to keep their standard commission on the coupon. To be a good company, they should have also honored their coupon to their customers and then paid the spa full rate for the massages they sold.

Instead, from what the spa owner told me, they seemed honestly surprised that the masseuses were unhappy that some stranger tried take 75% of a service fee out of their pocket.

I'm sure they didn't think of it as stealing at all...
Fri, 29 Jul 2011 11:39:06 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Internet Isn't Entertaining Enough have something like 3,000+ songs in my digital music collection. If I played my entire music folder it wouldn't repeat anything for over a week. And I have a relatively small music collection -- I know people who could play their music for months without repeating anything.

Markie has been complaining about the music selection at her salon. They have two iPods, one of which has a lot of my music along with music from her collection of CDs, and yet... they're sick of the music on the iPods.

So, for her birthday, I got her a cheap Android device that can play Pandora and Jango (and she could put some of those songs she's sick of on it, too, if she wanted to). It took some fiddling with signal quality, power strips and new audio cables, but I got it all hooked up and now they have the entire Internet at their fingertips.

Except... it's not really going to be enough. I listen to Pandora and Jango in the office, and while I can add artists and songs to get more variety, I get a lot of repeats. I shouldn't be able to even remember the same tune when I'm listening to a group of Finnish rockers wailing away on their cellos...

Turns out, my brain is bigger than all the music I care to listen to online. I was going to say, "my brain is bigger than the Internet," but that's obviously not true -- otherwise I wouldn't be searching on my phone for who played that guy in that movie to settle a bar bet.

But while I can't remember an actor or a film title, if they start playing the theme song, I'm going to be humming along. And then a little bored. Especially if I have to listen to it more than once a day.

And with the licensing agreements that Pandora and Jango have made, I start hearing the same music over and over again. It's like listening to someone else's MP3 collection, which, I guess is what I'm doing. And, even if they have months worth of music, I'm only listening to a slice of what they have, so... I'm still getting tired of the music collection.

It's probably a sure sign that we're near the fall of civilization as I recline on my settee (from IKEA) complain that I'm simply not entertained enough by all the music on the Internet...
Thu, 28 Jul 2011 13:17:03 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
It's not your bank... It's Apple's and Amazon's had a little snafu with an auto-payment the other day. I had gone through all the forms and phone calls to get it switched from one checking account to another, then the payment came out of the old account anyway. The old account that didn't have enough money, so I got hit with an overdraft.

I went to the bank and told them to reverse the charge and was told... they couldn't. Because I had given permission once to that vendor, they can always pull from my account. I've practically made them a signor on my account.

So I said, fine, I'll cover this one, but seeing as the vendor isn't stopping, I asked them to block that vendor from future charges.

They can't do that either.

Apparently once you give permission to someone to pull money from your account they can do it forever. The only way to make them stop is to, get this, close your account.

I was getting really frustrated at this point -- the banker is telling me that he can't stop some random vendor from getting into my bank account, so in other words, the vendor, any vendor, has more power over my bank account than my banker. My banker gave me a kind of stunned look when I told him that, as if he had never considered that.

Then I got to thinking about all the companies that have access to my account. Google for the Android Marketplace, Amazon for my Kindle, probably Apple (although I haven't used the iTunes store for years)... GoDaddy, Network Solutions...

The list kept growing as I thought about all the online services that I have to give a credit card to and, as in Google and Amazon, it seems I have to give it to them permanently because it's the only way to use the device that I own.

Well, the device that apparently Google and Amazon own. Along with my bank account.ID#comments
Fri, 22 Jul 2011 12:06:31 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Violated by Madison Avenue'm rushing to a meeting and someone tries stop me to hand me a flier or a sample of breakfast cereal. I shake my head no or just pretend I don't see them. Only I did see them, shifted gears for a second or two, and added a little annoyance to my day.

I'm watching a movie on TV and at the point that the story gets really critical an animation pops up at the bottom of the screen with dancing characters trying to get me to watch a show that starts in a couple weeks. I focus on the program and keep in the mood of the show but... yeah, another tick on the annoyance chart.

I'm listening to a beautiful piece of Baroque choir music on Pandora and an ad comes on for skate boards with rocking music. I'm reading a challenging article about quantum physics and I have to scroll past an inline text ad for "Make extra $$$ from home!" I'm enjoying a meal and I have to peer around a table tent for Friday Karaoke to talk to my dinner companion.

It's not just the fact that I'm bombarded by advertising all the time, it's that the ads are designed to set a mood, to gain your attention, to distract you from what you're trying to do right now. It's like someone brought a toddler to a cocktail party... a constant, inappropriate distraction that, even if it's not your toddler, you're forced to deal with.

I'm never in the mood to have my mood dictated by an ad agency. But they can catch a ride on my mood -- I find that the ads they put on the online version of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart actually fit the mood of the program -- not hard in our 15-30 second world of humorous ads, but the Axe Body Wash ad with the fast-paced shots of a guy's partying adventures after he showers feel more like part of the show and less like an obtrusive, inappropriate violation of my privacy.

Not that Madison Avenue is exactly known for subtlety, appropriateness or propriety. But I would like to suggest that being subtle and appropriate is what's going to work in advertising in the future, and shouting inappropriate things at inappropriate times is going to just be annoying... and ineffective.

My theory is this -- if your ad is jarring, it's easier for me to recognize it as an ad and I'm going to filter it. But, my filters aren't perfect, so I'm going to be annoyed as I filter it. Give me something that fits in with what I'm doing right now and I'm less likely to filter it out.

Until my filters improve and get annoyed at subtle advertising, that is. Then I'll have a different rant...
Thu, 21 Jul 2011 10:09:28 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Google+ Scares Me, truly. Have you read their terms of service? Let me point specifically to the issues I have:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

Do you read that? You grant Google *in perpetuity* (translation: forever and a day) the rights to any content you post. In addition, you grant them the right to disseminate or share said content with any other companies or organizations Google deems should have it.

OK, this means that your privacy is gone. Your content is public, whether you want it to be or not.

So, don't be send me an invite. I won't be joining you anytime soon. ID#comments
Mon, 11 Jul 2011 17:35:35 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
"We need to..." Internet Marketing Myths seem to have arguments with my clients about what they "need to do." Part of the problem is that they really feel they need to do something but can't explain why, but usually it's just because "everyone does" whatever it is they want to do.

Here's the top of my list of things that I seem to disagree most often with my clients about...

We need to be on Facebook
By all means, get your message on Facebook, but have a purpose. Simply getting 1,000 people to like your fan page just gets you 1,000 likes. The best you can hope for is that those people will happen to see you post something and maybe click on it. I can buy 1,000 banner impressions for a fraction of what it's costing you to drive all your customers away from your own website to get that "Like."

A "purpose" would be getting email addresses, or better yet, get them to give you a whole mess of info like their physical address and date of birth by sponsoring a sweepstakes. Or, rather than getting them to "like" your fan page once, get them to "like" your products (like the way I get instant impressions using a comment box -- see it live on

We need an iPhone App
Why? No, really... why? I mean, I get this all the time from clients, "We need an app." What you need is to reach your clients where they are -- while Apple's iPhone has 16% of the market, phones running Google's Android have... get this... 33% of new phone sales. And let's not forget the old flip phone -- Nokkia's Symbian phones are still getting 31% of the market. Oh, and Blackberry has 14%.

You'd better have a good reason to invest a huge amount of money targeting 16% of the market while ignoring the other 84% of mobile phones. A better use of that money would be to build a mobile website that works on any small screen -- it will work better on the big, low-res screens too, like game consoles like the Wii and PS3 -- and still not cost you a dime for any new devices on the horizon.

We have to be on the first page of Google
There are things you should do to make your website get indexed properly by Google -- good content being the first thing you should do but, unfortunately, is the last thing anyone ever seems to work on. But even if you do everything "right" (and "right" is subjective based on today's marketing plan), Google isn't one thing.

Google filters your results on over 50 data points even if you're not logged in. They look at things like what operating system your computer is running, what browser you're using, your default language, your connection speed, where you are in the world... You can type the same query into two different browsers on the same computer and get different results -- it's pure fantasy to think you're going to be able to control where your keywords show up on Google.

And, even if you do get that great ranking, it's still random traffic. I get 70% of my traffic to Jokeindex from search engines and those people come in, look at one page and leave. The visitors who came in from a referral on Facebook or Twitter, or the folks who bookmarked the page and came back on their own -- those folks are my real audience.

We need some animation or... I know! A Game!
Your website needs to be well designed. Adding a fancy animation or some kind of game to the page doesn't improve the design and it slows down the customer experience.

What you need is for every single thing on your website to have a purpose and then you need to track the monetization of those things. Make it easy for people to get in, give you money and get out. Make it easy to get their info so you can contact them later...

It should just be easy
Don't just do things because you're "supposed to" -- do them because you have a reason to do them. And them make it as easy as possible for your customers to do what you want them to do.

But don't forget -- it's really hard to make things easy. Easy for your customers is difficult for you and you have to be ready to invest time, energy and money into defining your goals, developing a strategy, and then implementing that strategy in an increasingly complex and chaotic world.
Fri, 1 Jul 2011 09:51:21 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Facebook's deal with the Devil was listening to the radio the other day (a rare thing in this era of streaming everything, but I didn't feel like plugging my phone into the car to listen to Pandora...). A song wound down and the voice over came on saying, "Join our Conversation on Facebook" and the next song started. No address, no mention of the radio station I was listening to, just a plug for Facebook.

An absolutely free plug for Facebook...

I figure Mark Zuckerberg must have signed some kind of deal with the devil. How else can you explain this stampede of companies abandoning their company websites in favor of promoting Facebook?

Yes, I'm on Facebook. Yes, my mother, my siblings, my nephews, my nieces, my ex-wife, my friends, my friends from high school, my casual acquaintances from conferences, my virtual friends I met on Twitter... yes EVERYONE is on Facebook, but that doesn't mean EVERYONE left the web.

What's really amazing about this "Send all your visitors to Facebook" is that Facebook actually gives us the tools to have a Facebook conversation, right here, right now.
I just copied a bit of code into my blog, and BAM, you can join the conversation without having to go anywhere. You get all the benefits of letting people make comments that appear on Facebook, but you keep your visitor on your own website.

See, this is why I think Facebook has a deal with the devil -- the devil is in the details, and Facebook has gotten so big, and so detailed, that the devil has a great place to hang out -- and in the meantime, Fortune 500 companies will continue to promote Facebook. For free.
Wed, 15 Jun 2011 11:57:14 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
My cool new phone is a little too cool. think there's always been a battle between form and function. Techies get accused of making things too complicated, while fashionistas argue over the subtle differences of colors with names like "sandy cave", "cafe au lait", "dusty hills" and "light brown."

Some people prefer form over function -- if it doesn't look right, it isn't right. They work around the problems because the thing they've got is cool and looks great with this year's colors and fabrics. Other people don't care how it looks as long as it does something specific, even if it means they get broken bones trying to use the thing.

As you know, I bitch a lot about the iPhone, so when it was time to get a new phone, I went droid. I didn't like the form-over-function level of simplicity of the iPhone, and Windows 7 Mobile is like a hanger-on at the sorority party -- not as pretty or sophisticated as the iPhone, and just as non-functional.

I figured the droid would give me more flexibility. After all, it is the phone of choice for geeks and it's created by a company that values PhDs over MBAs. Sure, it has an iPhone-esque, but I figured I could work around the cool factor and make it do what I wanted, even if it had complicated, geeky back doors to get that flexibility.

I figured wrong.

The droid is fine as far as it goes, and, yes, I've tricked it out with tools to let me connect to my desktop computer, play music over the network, exchange files more easily... but it just wants to do too many things for me, and it's trying too hard to be cool.

I probably have four or five blogs roiling around in my head about things like the fact it synced up my address book with Facebook (while the puppies are cute, I liked the photo I had of Kristen in my phone... where does Google get off choosing which profile photo to use?). Or the fact that the search functions finish my sentences for me and make it really hard to edit what they think I'm searching for...

But my specific complaints aside, the problem I'm having with modern interface design is not just that they treat you like an idiot, but that I can't seem to get away from being treated like an idiot.

My various devices in the past have let me turn off all the "helpful" features, but not our modern "smart phones." It seems inconceivable to the mass-marketers that maybe we're not all part of that mass market. Maybe we're smart, techie people, too, but the only way to really make the changes I want would violate the license to use the software...

I'm smart enough to know that I don't want to jail-break my phone and risk turning it into a brick -- really smart people have ways of breaking things in spectacular ways.

The pendulum will probably swing again as these devices aren't able to keep up with the real world, but until then, we're kind of stuck in the fantasy world of "cool toys" rather than real, mobile computing.
Tue, 14 Jun 2011 12:57:59 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
You are never alone had one of those surreal, sci-fi horror moments today when walking to get coffee and a danish this morning. Everyone was on their phones or iPods. Everyone. The mom with the stroller waiting for the pedestrian light was texting, the old guy waiting for the bus was on the phone, the girl in the car at the stop light was looking at the screen in her lap... Everywhere I looked someone was interacting with some kind of electronic device and not looking at each other at all.

Of course, I was checking my email while walking down the street, so that, "Oh my god, it's everywhere! Even I'm doing it!" moment was that much more visceral.

I'm not qualifying it, other than it was weird to see all these quiet people lost somewhere else in a sea of binary data streams. The girl in the car might have been looking at a GPS and getting to a new job on time. The mom might have been arranging babysitting. The old guy... let's not imagine what old guys at the bus stop are doing...

But what I realized walking along on this sunny day is that the old guy standing alone at the bus stop wasn't really alone... No single person wandering the streets was alone -- they were all connected to someone else with these devices that give us all prosthetic ESP powers.

The fact that mobile data is so cheap now (Verizon offers an unlimited data plan for about 60 bucks), and the fact that the gaps in the cell network are rapidly filling in with mini-cell towers reaching into the cracks and crevices of our urban landscape, means you're always in reach of someone.

Now add the fact that more and more of our devices are plugging into, um, wireless. Okay, bad metaphor, but cars send tire pressure alerts to the 'Net, you can get WiFi on airplanes, heck, the thing I read books on has 3G wireless, which means Amazon probably knows where I'm reading that book I just bought from them (don't ask).

I've talked a lot about the Hive mind and the Internet, but there's something more than the fact I can find out when the schrader valve was invented to settle an argument in the middle of nowhere. It's that I can have that argument in the middle of nowhere when there isn't anyone else around.

But then with wireless everywhere, we aren't really ever in the middle of nowhere, and we're never alone.
Thu, 9 Jun 2011 10:47:25 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Promotion vs. Distribution... You'd think they'd know that one... keep hearing about "Social Media Experts" which is funny when you then ask the "expert" to define "social media." There isn't a good definition, but this idea just ocurred to me -- define the difference between Distribution and Promotion.

Social Media gives you a distribution platform. Then you pray that people will promote you. Think about a movie, say, the fouth movie in a series based on a ride a Disneyland... you have brand recogintion, star power, and a strong franchise. But do you just go out front of the studio and mention to a few folks walking by, "Psst -- Johnny Depp is wearing eye makeup and a bandana again... tell your friends!"

Nope, you buy every surface you can from the sides of busses, to cups that cola comes in at fast food markets. You put it on TV, you send your stars out to talk to Regis, the View, the Soup and anyone else with Distribution. You don't rely on word of mouth.

But there's this mystical cloud around the phrase "social media" -- call it "word of mouth" and no one gives your campaign any credence, but that's what we're talking about. Sure, you're hoping for bubonic plague "word of mouth" but most campaigns are the common cold.

I guess my curmudgeon gene is working extra on this because I hate magic words. Hoping that your campaign is great is one thing, but advertising and promotion has always been about stacking the deck in your favor. You don't just hope that people will pass your product along. That went out with... hell, probably the plague itself. We're just too damn cynical to promote for you.

So, next time you have a great "Social Media" campaign make sure you have a promotion campaign, not just a wish and a prayer...ID#comments
Sat, 14 May 2011 22:49:49 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Publishing Industry Watch is an interesting discussion going on over on LinkedIn in the Writing Mafia group about "Snobby Writers". As a (published) writer, a recruiter in the tech field, an avid reader, and someone that both attends and puts on writing conferences, I feel qualified to make some observations. Snobby is being defined as believing that only traditionally published authors (meaning by a third party publishing house on paper) is intrinsically a better product than eBooks. I must say, I have to disagree to a great degree.

Here's why. I've read really bad books that have been published by major NY houses. And I've read some really good eBooks. And vice versa, of course. The deciding factor comes down to editing. The argument from the "Snobby" writers tends to be that publishing house editors really know their trade and enhance a book immensely. ePubs don't all have editors (some do). And especially the recent storm about the young 26-year old woman that is taking the Kindle market by storm the question becomes: who is the judge of what is "good" writing?

I try to be fair in my assessments. On all sides, you have the voice of the readers, at large. While huge sales are by no means the only definitive criteria of "good" writing, it certainly is a reasonable indicator. (You don't get to be on the the New York Times bestseller list if you aren't a "best seller.") And in this day and age of community opinion, how many of us have never read the comments on to see whether or not they were positive endorsements of a book? Exactly.

So, let's talk about editors, and specifically about publishing house editors. For those of you that don't know the traditional publishing world in any depth, there is a process that is akin to a job search. You submit a query letter (which is sort of the equivalent of a resume/cover letter combined) and a sample of your work. Each publishing house has different rules you must follow for submission, on its website. Once you have submitted your work, it is then given to an editor who is responsible for your genre, or type of writing (fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, etc.) Theoretically, this person knows what is "hot" in your category currently and what constitutes "good" writing (plot, characters, dialogue, and basic use of English.) They read either a few sentences, paragraphs, or pages of your book then either say "yes" or "no". If it is a "no" there are levels of rejection letters you receive. If they like the basics, they may send you a personalized rejection that tells you how to make it better and an invitation to resubmit. But the majority of rejections are form letters. Editors are the cogs that make the wheels of the publishing industry turn.

Now, a diligent (as opposed to "good") author is familiar with the process of writing a novel/book. First you write it and edit it yourself. Then you seek external opinions in various forms. That can be a critique group or partner, or hiring a professional (freelance) editor, or possibly sending it directly to an agent. As with any professional endeavor, training is available in various forms. Articles, workshops, conferences, etc. So there really is no excuse to not learning the way the industry works.

In addition, epubs offer agents and publishing houses both unparalleled access to exciting new authors at very low cost. But here's the thing: as excellent new writers emerge on the epub scene, I'm guessing they aren't going to be interested in traditional publishing where they lose so much of the rights to profits.

The way I see it, if NY (and global) publishing houses don't start embracing epublishing and *appropriately staffing* for the shift, their time is limited. I see an upswing in the number of freelance editors out there with "big house" experience as well as the emergence of some exciting new talent. My observations are based on my expertise as a technical recruiter as well as an author.
Fri, 4 Mar 2011 08:37:10 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Content for Social Media's a sad fact of life that many of us work in industries that simply don't promote a lot of water cooler discussions -- fabricators, asbestos removal services, transportation traffickers... If you have a job where you dread the question "What do you do?" you need to either find a new way to talk about your job or accept that social media might not be the most effective way to promote your company.

But, even asbestos removal technicians go to conferences, and when you find your social niche you suddenly find people who understand the difference between {mumbling technobabble} and {I know exactly what you mean!}.

So whether you have a blockbuster film that people are dying to hear about, or a new way to scrape hazardous materials off subflooring, it's a matter of basic marketing:

    1. Know your audience
    2. Tailor your message to that audience

I think we're all getting a little tired hearing about the Old Spice campaign, but it's a good example of knowing the audience and then creating something really compelling specifically for that audience. We may not care about our underarms, but we like the surreal way he's suddenly on a horse on the beach... or is he a centaur?

People don't mind passing along great entertainment even when it's obviously a commercial but, and I can't stress this enough

Everyone is sick of corporate content pretending to be good, when we all know it's crap. I can't sugar coat this one -- if you don't have either a compelling product, or interesting content, you not only won't get the return you're looking for, you run the risk of being the dark side of social media -- the viral taunting.

As an example, see my blog Sometimes you don't want your campaign to go viral where someone turned Microsoft's "Throw a Windows 7 launch party" into a series of really filthy references with clever bleeping.

Of course, at the end of the day, if your content isn't compelling and your product doesn't inspire people to pass along your message, you can always bribe people to engage with your campaign. Giving away coupons, holding sweepstakes or other contests where participation and passing along the message is required may not be compelling, but it drives traffic, eyeballs and awareness.

Nothing wrong with a little bribery... as long as it's authentic, sincere, and compelling bribery.
Wed, 2 Mar 2011 11:18:01 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Social Media Slot Machine Adam Boettiger's blog yesterday (The Cost of Attention), I was thinking how looking at more and more links, status updates, photos and tweets is like being a compulsive gambler. THIS time, c'mon baby, this time I'll find that amazing nugget of information or that incredible insight that will change my world.

Sometimes we're up a little and we're getting a good return on the time we're putting into the social media slot machine. But we're usually down, finding dead ends or trivia that's not even useful as a conversation gambit later on.

This can be an addiction, just like gambling. I've heard that gambling is a misfiring of the way our brains are wired for matching patterns -- when you're playing the slots, your brain is frantically trying to figure out the sequence of events that gives you the flashing lights and makes the coins come out the chute.

Problem is, there is no pattern that works. We're wired to look for that pattern, but slot machines and other games of chance are wired to make you lose.

Reading random stuff online is kind of the same thing. I won't say that it's wired for you to lose, but the more random something is, the less chance you have of ever figuring it out. Just ask weather forecasters in Portland.

Of course, as I said yesterday about finding diamonds in chaos, wonderful things surface in all the random shuffling through all the LOLs and me2s...

But, just like knowing when to walk away from the tables in Vegas, you can have fun, and maybe even get a little something extra out of pulling the lever on the social media slot machine just as long as you don't let it consume you.ID#comments
Wed, 23 Feb 2011 07:51:24 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Anonymous vs Me's consider my random words for a moment. I don't have a huge readership, so I know that most of the people who read this probably know at least a little something about me. And if you don't, you can always find out more about me -- there are those links on the left to let you find out more about me. If I say something really amazing, I'll get credit for it in some social fashion. If I say something horrible, I'll get slapped for it, virtually or possibly literally.

Now let's consider the average blogger or flaming tweeter (side note: I'm guessing that if you ordered a flaming tweeter at a bar you'd get a lot of rum in your drink). Anonymity means no one calls you on your bullshit. Which means you can be hip deep in random comments so fast you don't even see the wave cresting over your head. But... that wave of bullshit doesn't crash on the anonymous flamer because... well, if you're anonymous you don't exist.

So, there's a kind of a dialectic here...
transparency/accountability <----> anonymity/freedom of expression

The problem for me is that I can defend both ends of the spectrum as easily as I can tear them down. I think that accountability is critical in uncovering the truth -- if I know who wrote something, I can interpret their motivations and create a frame of reference for what they're saying.

At the same time, if you're unfettered by social constraints, you can say anything. Anything. And "anything" is a powerful word. When you set someone free, especially those who have lived on a short chain, you discover things you never thought of before. Sure, it might be that wave of bullshit I mentioned, but it might be something revolutionary.

So, here's my point.... there's a lot of talk in the media about how anonymous blogging and tweeting is creating a sadistic, dark society. It may be revealing the dark, sadistic side of humanity, but it's hardly creating it.

But as we allow the darkness into our consciousness, I think it's important to realize that out of chaos comes some amazing things, like diamonds from volcanoes, or iron from the cores of stars. Then it takes intellect and reason to fashion useful and beautiful objects from these rough, but invaluable materials ejected from chaos.
Mon, 21 Feb 2011 21:07:13 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
News from the Twitter Follow Campaign Trail follow-up on my blog The art of Indiscriminate Twitter Following...

After a week the @jokeindex account on twitter has gained about 650 followers. That's about 50 less than I expected after seven days as when I started I was pulling 'em down at a little more than 100 a day. But rather than gaining speed, my "follow everyone" campgaign has reached an eddy in the flow of new followers and losing followers.

Basically, I don't care who @jokeindex follows, which means it's a pretty sorry lot of Twitter whores (meaning, people who follow everyone... um, like @jokeindex). As with real life whores, twitter whores often find themselves in trouble with the establishment and get their accounts suspended or shut down entirely, so I lose a follower.

The more whorish accounts I follow, the more followers I will lose every day through attrition.

Of course, I also lose followers because of Twitter following/follower ratios. You can't follow more than 2,000 accounts unless you have about 1,800 people following you (I think that's right, but I haven't looked it up... Twitter follow ratios are fairly Byzantine to me). So when people hit that limit, and want new followers, they'll start unfollowing accounts they don't really care about.

So, like the swirling waters of the Columbia River trying to push into Pacific Ocean, the account is still pushing ahead just as fast, but it's being pushed back on by the rising tide of follower attrition.

At seven days in, with regular postings of links to I have seen zero change in my traffic. But then, I really don't expect anything to change after one week and less than 700 followers. I'm curious about what happens after months and 70,000 followers.

Unfortunately, the time it actually takes to keep an eye on drift check is probably more time than I wil ultimately want to invest. I can use scripts to autofollow and even auto post, which is where this experiment will probably go next -- then, like that culture in the back of the lab that you set aside for a few months, I'll come back and find out if there's a new cure for cancer, or that disease in Resident Evil that turns everyone into zombies.

I'm guessing the latter. ID#comments
Fri, 4 Feb 2011 09:55:46 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The art of Indiscriminate Twitter Following've always been somewhat discriminating about who I follow on Twitter, and even more so for my friends on Facebook. I don't like obvious advertisers and I actively block bots and other automatic scripts -- "automatic content" is the bane of the Internet today, and honestly the bane of creativity, always.

But I find myself envying the people with 70,000+ followers. I wonder if 70,000 completely indiscriminate followers gets you anything. Sure, we're in the age of millions of followers or friends on Facebook, especially for celebrities and TV shows so a mere five figures seems almost trivial, but it's still a lot of people.

There is any easy way to get those followers on Twitter and that's to follow EVERYONE back. I think it's a stupid idea. After all, if everyone follows everyone back, then no one is listening to anyone. (See my blog The noise of 20,000+ Twitter Followers). But..

Numbers are numbers in the marketing game. And, I happen to have a completely unfocused, broad appeal website that I've been running for 11 years -- It started in the era when people loved forwarding jokes to everyone in their email address book. One day I noticed I had something like 2,000 jokes in my joke folder, so I dumped them into a database and set up a website.

Jokes aren't what they once were online, but I still get a random 15-20,000 people visiting the site every month. The question is, can following everyone who wants be be followed on Twitter make that number go up?

The answer remains to be seen -- but I set up @jokeindex on twitter Friday morning and started following the #Teamfollowback and #ifollowback tags. I posted a few #teamfollowback tags myself, and I seem to be picking up about 100 followers a day so far. Whether that grows faster as my followers grow, again, remains to be seen.

In one sense, I hope the experiment fails miserably -- I don't want to believe that completely random traffic is useful. I like to think that understanding your audience and catering to them is more valuable than just whoring yourself out to all comers.

But then, there's a lot of stuff I'd rather not believe about the world that turns out that we're an easily manipulated, unsophisticated lot.

Check back in a couple months, and I'll post a link to a blog I'm sure to write after I get really tired of the #followback crowd...

Note: Read the follow up: News from the Twitter Follow Campaign TrailID#comments
Sun, 30 Jan 2011 11:04:56 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Cloudy Meaning of The Cloud are a lot of words and phrases bandied about in my industry... I’m often reminded of that scene in The Princess Bride where Inigo Montoya says to Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The one that’s been bugging me the most lately is “The Cloud.” The meaning of the cloud seems particularly cloudy... Everyone is talking about their cloud computing, but they all seem to have a different idea of what that means. And in reality, I don’t think the common meaning has really settled down.

Of course, Microsoft hasn’t helped any with their recent ad campaign, “To the Cloud!” and then show basic programs like photo editing or video sharing. To me, that’s not “the cloud” but rather an “Software as a Service” -- that is, the programs they’re trying to sell you aren’t running on your local computer, but out on the Internet somewhere.

By that definition, any webmail program from the 1990s is “the cloud.” Hell, any “save for later” function could be considered a “cloud” program at that point, but it really isn’t.

The cloud, in my understanding, is a bunch of computers that run out on the Internet and are constantly sharing data and programs. That is to say, the computers aren’t specifically dedicated to someone or something, unlike your desktop computer sitting in your office is yours.

You need more storage? There are plenty of computers with hard drive space on “the cloud.” You need extra processing to render that photo? The cloud lets you find a server that isn’t busy and does the processing there.

It’s a matter of load balancing, but “load balancing” sounds like something you do to your trailer at a truck stop, not a spiffy computing system. But this "load balancing" involves some hardware, some software, some personal data, some shared data... It's less of a cloud and more of a soup... But, again, "soup" doesn't conjure images of magic and gleaming technology.

And that’s the biggest challenge with cutting through the marketing to the meaning -- if it doesn’t sound cool, it probably isn’t going to sell. If it sounds cool, it doesn’t really matter what it means...ID#comments
Wed, 26 Jan 2011 12:16:25 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Demand For The Loss of Creativity brother just wrote a blog about the apple state of mind (My Emotional Response to iAnything). Michael has written several blogs about his frustration with Apple and Apple products, but in this blog he notes it’s really the smugness of some apple users; their lack of real technical knowledge, coupled with their religious certainty in the superiority of the apple product line. This got me to thinking about what is really going on here.

Apple’s simplification of the computing platform opens the market up to loads of people who would otherwise not be interested in computing products, it makes computers less of computers and more like terminals. And it makes people not capable of understanding computing devices able to use them, which makes those some of those people feel very smart –even superior. IT experts are relegated to the outskirts of the industry they founded, ran and still love. This is frustrating for IT experts, but it is not the first time this has happened to an industry.

The bicycle industry changed in this same way during the 1980’s and ‘90’s. I started riding in 1977. Gears (called freewheels then, now called cassettes) were selected gear by gear. This allowed a rider to customize his or her bike based on the type of riding planned (racing – touring, hills, flats etc). The calculation of gears was so expected that derailleurs and freewheels came with gear charts in the box to help the customer. Once the rider made his calculations and set the bike up, the rider was mentally invested in the ride. It was part science, but also part art. We knew our bikes, felt out bikes, and thought our bikes into existence.

This process was too complicated for the sport to expand rapidly. During the 1980’s Shimano became the dominate bike part supplier, removing Sun Tour from their long standing place in the top spot. Shimano created set gear ratios and one could only buy a complete cog set or cassette. Certain gear patterns were phased out. Gear charts were not supplied, and by the mid 1990’s it was almost impossible to find replacement cogs. Now many Shimano cog sets are riveted together preventing the replacement of individual worn gears. Flexibly, creativity and thought were removed, in favor of simplicity and mass marketing.

The gear changes started by Shimano have swept through the rest of the industry. Those slow to accept this new way were out. By 1993 Shimano had 100% of the new bike market. Sun Tour was gone entirely, and Campagnolo (once the premier brand) was an after market brand. Campagnolo came back using the Shimano model and is now doing well. Others have conformed. Meanwhile Shimano commands the same kind of religious loyalty for their sometimes only mediocre products that Apple commands in the computing arena.

It is clear that Apple is a trend setter and that others will follow, just as Shimano set the trend and forced the market to their will. The real question is why did it work? Do we really want to leave creativity and thought behind in favor of simplicity? Do we really want others (big brother, big industry, big religion etc.) telling us what we want, need, feel and believe? Looking at the Apple and Shimano model I would say yes, that is what most want. Those few of us who want to think and feel and believe for ourselves will sit on the outside with the non Apple IT guys and the bike gear heads.
Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:49:06 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Alien Technology and Government Conspiracies read a conspiracy theory years ago that said the US government was slowly introducing advanced technology gleaned from alien spacecraft to get the world population accustomed to the idea of fantastic technology so we'd be more receptive to the fact that there are aliens among us.

They start with something simple, like television, and then move to big computers, but steadily make them smaller so we can all have them. Finally they get us wired into the Internet. They speed up the rate of change so we're used to the fact that things that we knew last week are laughable this Tuesday.

Any day now, Zarquon can show up on our screens and tell us about the mysteries of the galaxy.

With the rate of technological change the past couple decades, it's starting to seem a little more possible that we are, indeed, being primed for some kind of Matrix-like revelation. The world we know today, through entertainment and the Internet, is filled with ideas and questions that nobody ever asked or explored before (other than my geeky friends in high-school, that is).

And the rate we accept new developments is alarming, not just to paranoid schizophrenics. For example, in October of 2009, or just a little over a year ago, I wrote a blog about a guy questioning the value of putting GPS into a laptop (see "GPS in a Laptop computer"). Today, with the iPad leading the way for a new generation of tablets, people ask, "Why ISN'T there GPS in my mobile computing device?"

So, if we accept the premise that our technology advances are from aliens, and that the iPhone/iPad revolution has changed the way we think, then, obviously, Steve Jobs is an alien. But that's too obvious.

More intriguing to my amateur cultural anthropologist hobby is how incredibly malleable human beings are. We ratchet up the rate of change, and we complain that things haven't changed fast enough. And, I think, we're getting to that breaking point. There is a growing segment of the population that, while not overtly tech-hostile, is overtly anti-intellectual. They don't want to accept new ideas, and they don't trust the government to make decisions for them.

But, again, if the premise is right, then the Tea Partiers might actually be on the right track -- reject logical thought and technical progress and fight the aliens!

Now... how to convince them that Sarah Palin and Steve Jobs came in on the same saucer...ID#comments
Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:20:35 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Time for a New Reality use my phone as an alarm and it went off at 6:30 this morning, like every morning. I got up, went downstairs, had some breakfast, looked at the clock in the kitchen and... it was 7:20. Either I lost 45 minutes somewhere or one of the clocks was lying to me.

Naturally, I'm going to assume my phone is correct, after all, it has to check in with the network from time to time and it updates the clock when it does that. It's phone company time -- practically military time, only without that pesky 24 hour format.

Except my phone was wrong. And so was Markie's. Somehow one of the towers we connect to with our phones (we both have AT&T) is 45 minutes slow. One of the towers -- not all of them, so sometimes my phone has the right time, and sometimes it's 45 minutes slow. I just don't know when.

My first reaction when I find information is wrong (time, temperature, news events, whatever) is to... check my phone. I have the whole Internet on my phone, it knows everything, and it's proven to be reliable for basics, like what time it is.

Sure, I've had those weird things like when I change time zones all my appointments change; Noon PST is 3PM EST. That's why they call my phone a "smart phone" -- we're talking about a phone that practically understands Einsteinian physics because it knows where I am in time AND space. It's those weird, smart, things that make me trust my phone that much more and assume that what it says is real.

But when my phone is fed bad information, then I'm fed bad information. And I believe my phone as much as my phone believes the towers when it says it's 45 minutes earlier than it is.

Of course, so much of my life is based in information that I assume is correct that when something fails as fundamental as "what time is it?" I have to question reality in general. We knew housing prices would never fall. We knew there were WMDs. We knew Cindy Lauper was WAY more talented that that flash in pan, Madonna.

We know what time it is. Don't we?
Mon, 17 Jan 2011 10:01:42 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Death of Email've seen a number of articles lately on the "death of email." The idea is that we're relying on things like messaging on Facebook or even just text messages. The reasons given by these professional writers sound less like a technical concern and more like, "kids don't know how to write anymore."

Complaining that email is disappearing ignores the fact the business letter has pretty much disappeared. Heck, it's kind of like complaining that we just don't send as many telegrams as we used to.

Suggesting we're going to lose some kind of texture or depth to our communication because we're shooting 160 character txt messages at each other ignores the fact that we have more ways to communicate than ever before, and the bulk of these ways to communicate are still using the written word, Skype and "forward facing cams" on cell phones aside

It is true that the medium changes the way we organize and manage those thoughts, but the way we communicate changes more with your culture (family, friends, business, etc.) While I despise smileys and LOLs, it's no different than despising street slang or corporate acronyms. I don't see many emoticons in emails with attorneys, although I admit I've seen them from contacts in the Federal government...

I guess what I'm saying is that when people bemoan the death of email, they're bemoaning the death of a format, of conventions for how to express yourself. The long, in-depth letter died a long time ago, although one may consider that it was replaced by the blog -- long in-depth writing still exists, even if there is a flood of BRBs and CUs in Facebook.

When we have a story about the death of communication, then I'll pay attention, provided there's still a medium to deliver the message (clay tablets work, but you probably want to keep your message short...)ID#comments
Wed, 5 Jan 2011 08:06:13 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Protecting Free Speech... Anonymously (and geekily)'ve been reading more about political DDoS attacks. DDoS, for those who don't memorize acronyms, stands for Distributed Denial of Service attack -- computers with viruses gang up and crank call a website so no one else can connect. You can get thousands of computers trying to take down a poor little box and drive it to a nervous breakdown.

The disturbing thing is that people are now using these attacks against small, non-profits to shut them up. I find most of the online political speech annoying as the next guy (or as annoying as the offline political speech) but I believe anyone should be able post their views about labor conditions in China or discrimination against pansexuals without having to worry about someone throwing a digital brick through their virtual front window.

It doesn't even take a lot of effort on the part of these DDoSers. They just have to do it long enough to annoy the tech company where the Shroom Liberation Front website is hosted. If I had a client who pays me 20 bucks a month suddenly attracting enough attention to take down my network, I'd shut them down, no question. The fact they're a bunch of strung out weirdoes doesn't even have to enter the equation.

And when that little tech company shuts down that little non-profit, the bad guys win. Many political organizations are purely online these days. All their communication is via bulletin boards and email, all their literature is on the web -- their entire existence is on 20MB of web storage and when it gets shut down, the organization is effectively dead.

I had thought that with the advent of cloud hosting that this wouldn't be a big deal. You pay 20 bucks a month to someone like Amazon, and there's practically unlimited bandwidth available. Except even a big tech company is going to shut down a disruptive website -- like the kid getting in trouble because the bullies tried to throw him off the bus, it doesn't matter who's fault it is, the kid loses either way.

Weav and I brainstormed a little yesterday and we came up with an idea. We don't really have the resources to do this alone, so I'm going to outline it and see if we can start putting together an open source team to make this happen.

Basically, the Internet was designed to be almost self-healing -- if one part of the network goes down, your data can still go from Point A to Point B, it just takes a different route. Problem is you still need a Point B -- all your data lives in one place, even if the network is a global spider web of ever changing routes.

So, the idea is that we don't need web servers, any more than movie and music pirates need web servers to swap Christina Aguilera videos. We keep copies of the Manifesto (or the much more boring annual report) on lots of personal computers -- if the DDoS is caused by lots of PCs attacking one place, turn that around and make it impossible to find all the locations of the web content.

To do this we have three different things that need to be developed:

Onion Routing
People have been trying to stay anonymous online for a long time, and they've developed tools to hand data off to each other in sort of like an underground rebellion where you only know the members of your cell. There are ways to find other computers and exchange data, without actually letting the computers know about each other -- check out Tor (anonymity network) on wiki if you're curious and geeky.

Server Software
Once the computers can find each other, there still needs to be a way to do the basic web serving we're used to. I'm thinking permission from your fans who say, "Yeah, marmots are cool, I think I'll donate 100MB and some bandwidth to The Cause." That means that the fan has to install a bit of software on their computer. Doesn't have to be really complicated, just serve up some web pages and let people make a few comments. Maybe support a basic bulletin board...

Publishing Tools
Say we get that onion routing thing figured out, then we need a way to let you, Mr./Ms./Mrs./Etc. Political Publisher, actually publish to this network. With a combination of security keys and rsync, it should be doable, but it would need messaging to let publishers know that something went wrong and give them a way to fix it.

I know, this is all pretty overwhelming sounding and really techie. And the fact that my main goal here is to create a truly free and open web will probably get me in trouble, but it's a good idea, now if anyone is interested, let's see if we can turn the idea into something people could actually use.
Thu, 30 Dec 2010 18:07:50 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Amazon Shouldn't Have Shut Down WikiLeaks me first say I don't know the impact of Julian Assange's constant publishing of secret documents. Of course, I don't know the impact of the New York Times or the Guardian reporting on the materials he releases. Maybe he's put people in danger, maybe he's making the world a better place. But I do know he hasn't been charged with a crime yet (other than the unrelated questioning about his sexual activities with two Swedish women).

WikiLeaks, in case you missed it, publishes these secret documents on the web for anyone to read -- not just the established media or the For Your Eyes Only government officials the documents were intended for. They've been hosted on Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) servers, just like lots of other companies, big and small.

Amazon decided to cut off WikiLeaks account yesterday without comment. Apparently they were getting phone calls from Senator Joe Lieberman (yeah, that Joe Lieberman) who happens to be the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Now, I wouldn't want to be in Amazon's shoes, but, my basic opinion is that if WikiLeaks hasn't been charged with a crime, then Amazon shouldn't turn off the account. Granted, the entire cloud has come under Denial of Service attacks, and there could be other, legitimate reasons for Amazon to shut off the site, but they should give that good reason.

The Internet isn't the Wild West -- it's a big infrastructure that a few very large corporations control. It's built on trust that, so long as we aren't breaking any laws, that everything is left up to technology and not politics.

As more of our businesses rely on the few, large cloud companies like Amazon, Google and Rackspace, the more important it is to know that my website won't be at risk of being shut down because a senator gets a bee up his butt and makes a threatening phone call.

Use due process -- issue warrants and injunctions. But intimidation and arbitrary corporate decisions sounds like a threat to our national security, and therefore democracy in this country, even if that's what you say you're trying to protect.

Thu, 2 Dec 2010 09:29:05 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Superpowers of the Hive Mind we are, a couple years into the great communications revolution. It's a theme I keep coming back to because I think the chaos of hearing everyone's thoughts all the time is having a very real impact on society and we don't really know where it's going to end up.

Entertainment is big money and the trick has always been figuring out what the suckers want. Now that the Audience is part of the show, it only makes sense that Fox doesn't report the news, it just gives the audience what it wants to hear. No need to wait for the Nielsen's at the end of the week, you know EXACTLY what the audience thinks.

What we've ended up with is a kind of a hive mind -- there are no leaders or followers and there's no accountability or clear direction, that is, for now. An idea may come from the Audience or it may come from the news companies. We don't really know, and as long as everyone's getting what they want, we don't really care.

It's like a new form of consciousness is waking up, and it's still in that cloudy state between dreaming and that first cup of coffee.

The people who can harness this hive are starting to wake up, too. Leadership skills that worked 50 years ago are useless today, but some people, like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck connect with part of the hive so seamlessly that they surprise the old guard leaders.

Obama did a great job of using the Internet, but it was mechanical and one-way. People like Palin and Beck are a neural nexus in the Hive; they pull ideas in and out of the Hive, modifying and amplifying them to create new waves in the collective.

It's almost like a super power, and surprisingly enough, it's these conservative, almost Luddite minded people who are the first to learn to fly. Whether you can actually govern the masses with this chaotic feedback loop remains to be seen, but like I said, the Hive mind hasn't had it's coffee yet -- let's check back in at lunchtime.
Fri, 12 Nov 2010 12:47:14 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Time for New Ideas years I've said that "an argument reinforces your own opinion." That is to say, most people come away from an argument not with new ideas, but with better defenses. I'm not sure what you call the opposite of an argument, but the result is the same when you have an earnest conversation with someone whom you agree with -- you're just getting ideas to support your position and nothing really new.

I'll, ahem, argue, that there's a primal need in the back of our brains to search for ideas that are comforting. We want to hear things that reassure us that the world is as we believe and it's great fun to see the people who disagree with us proved wrong, or at least look stupid. That suddenly overused phrase about "finding your tribe" is actually pretty deep -- we're wired to be members of a tribe, pretty much an extended family unit, and for good or ill our brains will find a way to find our tribe.

With the Internet, mobile computing, on-demand entertainment and 24/7 news our tribal brains can find reassurance with the touch of a few buttons. If I stumble across Glen Beck and don't like what he's saying, I can pull up last night's episode of The Daily Show and get reassurance from a member of my mental tribe.

If you don't agree with me, you don't have to learn how to accommodate my ideas -- you can instantly find someone who will call me and my crazy ideas idiotic. We don't really fact-check so much as we fact-cherry-pick -- find the ideas that best support the ideas we already believe and ignore the stuff that doesn't fit.

I ignore a lot of stuff. I'm not proud of it, I'm just really tired. Looking at an idea that doesn't fit takes energy. Actually letting that idea in and giving it a place to live with all the other ideas I have in my head is even more exhausting -- it's much easier for me to find some rationalization to simply make this new idea go away.

In one sense, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I try to keep my clients on track -- we made a plan, now let's stick to it until the thing we're building is done and THEN we can look at new ideas. There are always going to be new ideas in the development of a project, but we have a process to record and revisit those ideas later.

But for most things in life, there isn't a process to evaluate new ideas, there isn't time to really give them a home, and there are so many credible seeming sources that allow us to reject the new idea, not set it aside to think about later, but bury it alive, and never go back.

I always seem to get around to the Amish at this point. They have a council of elders who review new ideas and consider the impact on their society before allowing the idea life. Of course, they're technologically up to about the early 1800s at this point, so it's not really a scalable process, but the idea of really thinking about ideas, and having a time and a place to do so, is sorely needed.ID#comments
Wed, 3 Nov 2010 10:55:05 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Comcast, Netflix and the Mystery of the Modem bought Markie a Wii for Christmas last year. I admit, it was partially selfish... I'm not really into video games and I can't really see her spending a lot of time bowling or playing tennis or doing yoga, but you can watch Netflix "watch instantly" movies on the Wii.

Last night we were both exhausted and ended up watching Zombieland on the Wii. Then there was a little browsing around and we started watching the TV series Heros. We got about 2/3 through the second episode and suddenly the Internet connection was gone.

After the Supreme Court ruled that the FCC cannot regulate Internet Traffic Comcast started "throttling" certain services. I use a file sharing tool called BitTorrent which works by connecting to 100s of other computers simultaneously to get bits of and pieces of one big file. This is a huge bandwidth hog, so it makes sense that Comcast makes that program uses less of the pipe.

Netflix also uses a lot of bandwidth when you "watch instantly" although it's a lot less disruptive to the network than BitTorrent. But, Netflix is in direct competition with Comcast's On Demand service and their new Xfinity service that streams movies over the Internet just like Netflix.

So, if you're Comcast, unfettered by the FCC, and you see one of your customers watching movie after movie on Netflix, movies you could be renting out at 5 bucks a pop, why wouldn't you interrupt their service?

Now, mind you, I called Comcast and asked them if there was any trouble with my line. They told me it must be the cable modem. Except when I got up this morning I found the modem was working fine and I'm back online.

It is possible that the constant connection caused a capacitor to overload in the cheap cable modem or that some other intermittent failure caused it to be unable to connect. But I somehow think it's a lot more possible that some engineer somewhere is working on ways to make using non-Comcast services less reliable.

Let's say it's true that Comcast is blocking my Internet after I watch "too much Netflix." Despite what the big boys have said, I don't have a lot of alternatives for broadband service. There's DSL, which is slower than cable and forces me to deal with a phone company I hate (and I have to get a land line again) or there's WiMax through Clear which is even a step slower, and new enough that I don't want to have to rely on it full time.

The other two options, cell modems and satellite, are slow connections that have a cap on how much data you can download. Ruling out Netflix again.

Without the FCC rules to let me buy bandwidth that I can do what I please with, the only innovation is going to come from Comcast and the phone companies. Not exactly the most innovative companies on the planet...
Sun, 31 Oct 2010 10:16:57 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Great Technical Disconnect a message from a client today. Well, it wasn't actually from my client, it was from someone else in his office who wanted to chat about the "platform the website is built on." Now, bear in mind, I've been working with these people since... 1999? 2000? I'm not sure exactly, but it's been a longggg time in Internet years.

Turns out the Marketing Director doesn't really like the website (which one, I'm not sure, we've done four for them). She figures she can handle managing the website, after all it's a part of company communications and why does she need some geeky tech guy?

Well, let's see... it's an ecommerce site that ties directly into their backend warehouse management. They host their own servers so any changes are going to involve the geeky tech guy. They have FOUR websites, all of which share a database backend for content management. Oh, and they have someone in the company who is assigned to handling this, so just common business sense says to start there before calling the vendor.

But this is what I struggle with every single day. The "web" isn't just some pretty pictures on a computer. There are a whole slew of infrastructure issues that, honestly, might be a little more complicated than, "I think the site looks a little dated."

Yes, the site might look a little dated, and I'm first in line to tell clients that they can't have something that just functions but doesn't fulfill the promise of the brand. The problem is that corporate communications and corporate infrastructure people NEVER TALK and here they are sitting on the same stool.

I want to make some kind of proclamation saying, "This Must Stop Now." But I know that this isn't new -- operations and marketing have never talked, and new technologies are just amplifying the disconnect.

However, I do think that the time has come for a new Officer in the corporate structure. A Chief Interactive Officer who bridges marketing and technology, forms a plan that satisfies both, and keeps that plan on track.

Oh, and while I'm at it I want a pony.
Thu, 21 Oct 2010 17:26:15 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
New for the Sake of New seem to post a lot of stuff complaining about unnecessary change. Part of that is the "get off my lawn" old man mentality of someone who's been doing this stuff for a long time, but part of it is that things really are changing too fast and with too little thought for consequences.

As a society we value "new" and we root for the underdog. We like to see the unknown guy come in with ideas that the status quo haven't thought of and shake things up. Unfortunately, we don't really know who or what the status quo is anymore -- things move so fast that the underdog becomes The Man before his ideas can shake things up.

My world is based in making technology decisions. This stuff is complicated -- businesses have a growing torrent of information and a lot of new ways to exchange that information. Where once a fax machine was a revolutionary and magical piece of technology, we have email, instant messaging, social media, mobile, web, Internet appliances, physical mail and the whole world of "traditional" media like TV and radio.

How it all fits together is complicated and it's getting more complicated. Companies wander out into the wilderness of Facebook applications while their basic web site is broken. They hire someone to build an iPhone app, but they don't have a customer database to let people know the thing exists, let alone to drive downloads, and even then, the app doesn't actually do anything that the basic website doesn't already do (poorly).

The reality is that every time you add another thing to your plate, it affects everything else on that plate. Think about a buffet -- if you don't have your mashed potatoes secured right, then when you pile on the gravy, you're going to make a mess. But if you're skilled, you can pile that plate high and wide and keep it all under control.

I love new things, otherwise I wouldn't be in the business that I'm in. But at the end of the day, if I don't have time to figure out how to use a new thing and then put it to use, then exploring these new things is just a waste of time.

And one old thing that hasn't changed is that time is money.
Fri, 8 Oct 2010 17:52:01 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
A Retail Store Built Like the Web problem with "Web Design" is that anyone with a 5th grade niece thinks they have a resource. I got to thinking about what the world would be like if I went shopping in a store built by that 5th grader -- not a web site, but an actual store.

First trick, getting there... Most people have a company name that's a lot like someone else's, which is fine if you're not right next door, but with the Internet, XYZ Co. is next door to XYZ Net, and XYZ UK, and XYZ Biz, and XYZ... You get the picture.

I'd be driving around the block, looking at these stores wondering which one was the right one. Walking into them I find that they're close, but not what I'm looking for. Oh, and there's that XYZ XXX store with all the pictures of naked women tied up...

My fictional store solved the name war by calling themselves "" and effectively hid the store at the end of a twisted back alley with a chain link fence out front... Of course, when I actually get to that front door, I have to wait for a bouncy animation and a song to play before the door opens. I'm still not sure what that's all about...

Once I'm finally in the store, I can't find anything... I'm looking for a red widget... And I find... Let's see... There are some two year old press releases sitting on the front desk, there's a TV that starts blaring the store's latest commercial as soon as I walk in, there's a BIG sign with a phrase like We will strive to inspire dynamic initiatives with better outcomes for the benefit of our colleagues and other private partnerships.

Oddly enough, they seem to have a lot of doors leaving the store. Some lead to other stores and each time I go through one of those doors I hear a nickel drop behind me -- apparently that's how much I'm worth to

I find a little door marked "Buy Now!!!" with a room piled with products that are just scattered around. As I start blindly wandering down the aisles I find most of the products are in plain white boxes with an "Image Coming Soon!" sticker slapped on the outside. All the cartons are the same size, so I have to read the descriptions for what's in the box, which would be okay, except it's all printed in such a tiny, blurry font that I can't tell if it's the description or some kind of barcode...

Turns out there is some kind of organization to the shelves, but as soon as I leave one aisle I either get completely lost and can't find my way back to it, or I keep finding myself in exactly the same aisle, over and over again in some kind of Escher like market.

When I finally find what I think I'm looking for, I try to find a way to buy it. I can put it in my cart, but for some reason, my cart is built in such a way that it's almost impossible to see what's actually IN my cart. Then, getting my cart to the checkout is so obtuse that I find myself running in circles, coming back to the shelves, then over to the press release table, then...

Finally, I'm at a place where I can give them money. First thing they do at the checkout counter is ask me if they can keep my credit card... forever. Um... no... so I start to fill out a long form, then enter some blurry letters to prove I'm a human being (ironically, because the checkout person is obviously a robot -- as a matter of fact, I don't think I've seen a human being all day).

Then I look in my cart and I see the checkout robot has slipped a whole bunch of stuff in my cart that I didn't want when I wasn't looking. When I try to pull the junk out, they keep asking, "Are you sure you don't want this stuff you didn't ask for?"

As I pull my credit card out, and I'm told to go outside to another company to pay. "But I'm buying this from you guys..." "Oh, we use PayPal to handle all our money."

Apparently the banks don't trust these guys anymore than I do at this point, so I go outside to a little kiosk for the "trusted" people, give them my credit card, and come back in with my little slip of paper that says I can have the stuff I just bought. Which I'm told will arrive at my house in a few weeks...

My fun is over, but now some stockboy in the back has to get the order... He only works Wednesdays and Fridays and has to work through the arcane paperwork that the retail store produces. Only they don't send him the orders, so he has to keep driving to the retail store, go in the back door, and look to see if there's a pile of orders... or not.

He doesn't get the SKUs for the product that actually sits on his shelves, but rather, some kind of weird numbering system unique to the retail store.

Half the time he doesn't even have it in stock which means changing my order, going to the "trusted" bank people to give me some of my money back, which takes almost as long as getting the product was supposed to, and I'm stuck back where I started... Wandering the streets of poorly marked warehouses with dancing animations on their doors...
Mon, 4 Oct 2010 17:16:38 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Disposable Personas of my peeves is when I'm out to dinner with friends and they're complaining about the service or the food and when the server comes by and asks, "How is everything?" they respond with a cheery, "Great!"

Until this era of social media "review" pages, it was just annoying, but now we have this incredible outlet for the passive aggressive diner. I wouldn't be surprised if sometime I'm out with these two-faced diners and they're on their iPhones posting a scathing review while at the same time they're smiling while thanking the server.

The anonymity or even just perceived anonymity of the Internet lets people vent, kind of like I'm doing right here (except you can find me if you want to). But as many people vent under assumed names and aliases, they have the ability comfortably scathe a restaurant without responsibility.

This lack of responsibility has me concerned lately about anonymity on the web. I'm fairly reserved in what I post on my Conquent account because it reflects not only on me, but on my company. While I could use Conquent as a platform to randomly rip into companies, there are real-world consequences for being a butthead. (My ripping into companies isn't really random... but I may still be a butthead...)

Of course, there are people who start companies, run them into the ground, and close them down to avoid the consequences of their actions just as there are people in the world who declare bankruptcy every few years or change jobs either quitting or getting fired regularly, just moving along and never learning and never getting better at anything but covering their tracks.

Those are, of course, extreme examples, but I wonder how this world of disposable online personas will lead to more complications in the not-so-disposable world of business and personal credibility...
Thu, 30 Sep 2010 17:42:48 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
When did Google Start Policing the Internet? a month ago, one of the machines in the office got a nasty virus. We managed to get it cleaned up pretty quickly and moved on. What no one considered was that once one machine is compromised, lots of other, more subtle security issues might still be lurking even though the initial mess is cleaned up.

Last week we found one of those other compromises on the Rackspace Cloud server. Apparently the virus rifled through the designer's FTP passwords and sent them off to some other server. We should have, but didn't, change her passwords on the ftp site, and the malicious server rewrote a whole mess of JavaScript files to include a line of text to download malware onto your machine. Not that the offending malware was on our server, but the line of code to deliver it was definitely appended to our scripts.

No problem -- change the passwords, restore the files from our repository in the office and all is good. Until today.

It turns out that Google crawled that site during the time the malware link was on the server and today I was surprised to get a call from a client telling me that one of the site we manage for them is being blocked as a "Reported Attack Page!"

What's interesting is that to solve the problem, you have to go to Google, set up an account, and ask them to review your site. This means you have to prove to Google you own the site, and give them a little personal information (like your contact info) in order so they can communicate with you...

I'm all for free enterprise, but I'm not entirely comfortable with a single company, Google in this case, deciding what's good or bad and forcing me to create an account to get my site out of hock. In our case, the developer had already corrected the problem, but they didn't automatically go back and notice the problem was fixed. There's no indication how long it's going to take Google to decide that the site is no longer compromised, and no real path to contesting their decision beyond asking them to, pretty please, look again.

Granted, as Firefox says, "Google scans millions of websites and identifies those that are, or recently were, hosting or distributing badware. If Google later determines a site is clean, Firefox no longer reports it as an Attack Site."

I'm not sure what the alternative is, after all, my own team managed to open a crack wide enough for the bad guys to stick a knife in and put a link back to their malicious servers, so how can we expect any better from non-technical people, of which more and more are managing servers with automated tools that can go sour really fast.

But... this doesn't feel the same as dealing with the committee driven black list groups for open relays... it takes a lot longer to get out of hock, and I'm having to give a lot more of my own information to a commercial enterprise to get them to let the world see my websites again, even when we fixed it faster than they blocked it...
Wed, 1 Sep 2010 19:19:48 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Getting back to HTML basics, thanks to Apple've ranted a few times against the whole idea of "Web 2.0" and against the idea that somehow the tools are "new" or that they've made the Internet a more vibrant place. (See Old School Web Design Still Works and Flash: Shiny objects blinding your audience.) I also keep complaining about how Apple pretends to be "innovative" and "magical" while marketing tools that we've been using for years.

Ironic that we did a really basic "flash game" in basic HTML specifically to make sure the thing would work on the iPad. Didn't even have to build an app for that, existing tools worked fine.

The game itself is one of those basic interactive widgets that I, honestly, don't understand the attraction of, but people seem to love playing with. In this case, you paint the face of some fan for Tyson's fall football promotion -- you can put headgear on them, stickers on their cheeks and color their faces. Go ahead, play with the copy we've got on our development server by clicking here.

This is a classic application for Flash, only Apple has decided not to support Flash on iPhones, iTouch and iPads using their iOS (operating system). Then again, my Windows Mobile phone doesn't support Flash and I have a real problem with using any plug-in technology just because it's there.

Our team made something that actually works in web browsers -- any web browser -- using really basic HTML and GIF images. I admit, the overall execution has some flaws, but the thing works in IE6, on the iPad, and even on Opera mini on my Windows Mobile phone. That's quite a feat...

So, while I'll continue to bitch about Apple confusing the marketplace by presenting spin as technology, I have to admit, the limits placed on the world by that magical company allow us to get back to basics and make stuff that works.

I guess you just have to think different(ly).
Tue, 31 Aug 2010 08:00:01 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Inspecting my Navel Base read somewhere that there are something like 33 million blogs online. How many of them are active is up for debate, but you have to admit a lot of people are spewing their thoughts, ideas and imagination out into the blog-o-sphere.

The question that seems to be coming up over and over again is, "Yeah, so what?" Like Twitter and Facebook, blogs are just part of the stream of consciousness of humanity. I like to think my inner monologue is interesting and relevant, but most of what people get written down and posted online is somewhere between a therapy session and an acid trip -- relevant to the blogger, not so much to the reader.

I write something every day -- and you'll notice how rarely something ends up on my professional blog. Much of what I write is simply inspecting my own navel -- most people don't care about the amount of lint in my belly, but sometimes I get a brilliant idea when examining that little bit of fluff that seems to have no relevance to the universe.

As I mentioned in Emails, discussions, blogs, wiki and web content, blogs are what we believe "right now" -- they aren't the answers, and they aren't really the discussion. It's kind of like test-driving a car -- your ideas need a little road test before you completely commit to them.

The question I'm struggling with now is balance. Writing, reading other people's ideas, responding to those ideas, participating in a universe bigger than myself is... really distracting. How much we really learn from open introspection and how much we're just blathering is something that, unfortunately, I think remains to be seen.

There can be something almost cult-ish about the blogging world -- you build a core group of people who enthusiastically agree with you and you with them. You have literally billions of people to sift through to find that core group, which means, if there's someone out there for everyone, you're going to find someone and, hopefully more than one or two.

Which makes me wonder... do we really broaden our horizons by reading and participating in social media outlets like blogging, twitter and Facebook, or is it just so much inspecting our navels with an audience?

I'm just test-driving this idea, so don't be surprised if you see me driving around in an entirely different idea later...

Mon, 30 Aug 2010 08:44:40 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
A shoebox vs. an online backup keep seeing ads for online backup systems. Now, don't get me wrong, I think automatic, online backups are a perfect use of the Internet -- we've been using mirroring and synchronizing tools on our servers for years.

But I saw an ad for mozy today where this woman is holding a shoebox of photos and says, "I once stored my memories in shoeboxes. Now I know my photos will be safe for generations to come."

Really? Generations to come? I have a stack of 5 1/4" floppies with memories I'll never relive. I have CDs that are scratched and beyond readabilty. I once had a bunch of photos and documents in attachments in an old Hotmail account, but that account got deleted, along with my data. I'm not sure I know my Myspace login. And Facebook keeps changing what they do with their privacy rules -- who knows if the photos I have posted there will stay there through a class-action suit.

But I visited my dad a while back and he had photo albums going back to before I was born and it was easy enough to pick up a book and start looking without finding the right technology or password. Sure, he's converted a lot of these to digital and sent everyone in the family CDs of these photos, but the slides and photos in his closet are still the best source for memories.

mozy may be a great service, but to assume that ANY online service is going to be there for "generations" is absurd. Sure, store your photos there, but keep them in a shoebox too...
Mon, 26 Jul 2010 10:58:55 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Is Your "Resume" Website Recruiter-friendly? a recruiter, I think it probably goes without saying that I'm asked to look at a lot of resumes by people before they submit them for jobs. But since I am a technical recruiter, I get a lot of requests to look at websites and online profiles as well.

I recently had someone ask me for my opinions on his consulting site. My suggestion was to condense things and not try to make himself an expert in everything related to his industry (and to lose the personal interest section). If you add too much detail to your site, you dilute your brand and potential clients come away with an impression of "jack of all trades, master of none". Pick no more than three related skills to highlight on your website.

So earlier, one of my friends sent me a link to this site, which in turn points to *another* portfolio site as a "perfect" example of what your online resume (his word) should look like.

Site one:

The "perfect" resume site:

So, here are my comments to my friend:

"Never ever ever put pictures on your resume. It is considered a way to induce discrimination in HR/Recruiting types and they tend to ignore resumes with photos, even if they are online.

If you go to his actual "resume" link it is just a list of skills, and nowhere is his actual employment history listed in reverse chronologic format."

So here is the thing: as a portfolio site to demonstrate his skills for prospective clients, I have no issue with it. But if he is using this site as his "resume" for employers vs. clients, it has issues. Photos on a resume are bad because HR has a duty to protect the employer from legal action, and it is not unusual for someone who doesn't get a job to use tactics to try and file a discrimination lawsuit. So the answer for HR/Recruiting is to not consider resumes or CV's with pictures on them, in North America.

It's very important to remember that when you are job seeking that you try and put yourself in the mindset the recruiter and hiring manager are in. In this very tight competitive environment, you are trying to capture the attention of the decision makers. While it may seem creative to go outside the "established" box, I'd say that more often than not it can backfire on you. The time to prove your individuality and creativity is in the interview, when you have already proven yourself good "on paper".

Fri, 18 Jun 2010 14:03:17 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
iBooks -- Creative Epicenter or Gatekeeper? came up in conversation the other day that Apple has started to remove books from their iBook collection because of sexual content. While I don't see a lot of advantage to the iPad over a tablet PC, the advantage of the iPad over the Kindle is the graphics, and Apple's decision to ban content where, for example there's a gay kiss, doesn't bode well for the company that presents itself as the avant-garde epicenter of creativity.

Apple's agreement says: Applications (for apps) may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.

My problem with this is the extremely subjective nature of "objectionable" and in particularly, "defamatory." Sure, the Internet is a cesspool of porn and YouTube videos of people doing horrible things to themselves and others, but creativity is defined by the very lack of definition -- Michelangelo had to creep around in the middle of the night eviscerating corpses to learn about anatomy because Church bans on exploring the human body. Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Oscar Wilde...

We have many interpretations the First Amendment in this country, and while publishers have always had the option to decline works, there are other publishers you can shop your work to. What concerns me isn't just the idea of censorship, but the idea of a single corporation controlling so much information and then applying censorship based on shareholder interests.

Apple now controls 69% of the music market. So far as I understand, they don't censor individual works, but it's hard to say what kinds of deals they've struck with the music producers. Steve Jobs has said that Apple has 22% of the eBook market already, and if they become the reader of choice, killing the Kindle and the Sony collection of eReaders, we're suddenly looking at something a lot more important than a battle of platforms.

We're looking at Steve Job's face in the big screen in their 1984 Superbowl ad...

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 10:20:41 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Failure of Success wrote a blog awhile back called I'd love to have that problem in response to clients saying that being overwhelmed with business is a good problem to have, except it's still a problem, and you're still going to fail if you don't solve it.

If you have the resources, you can't overbuild, but even if you don't have the ability to build a 50 story office block for your expanding company, you'd better know how you're going to get into one if your business suddenly explodes.

Of course, as I work online, I'm looking at technology failures like Twitter for my real-life examples. I don't know what Twitter is going to be like in another few years, but they are definitely having that problem of success; I still don't know how they make money, but they just doubled their capacity and they still keep failing.

We've dealt with a number of projects that end up having huge traffic surges, but nothing on the scale of Twitter. I don't think anyone has had to manage that kind of traffic, and I include Google in this... Twitter is doing something new, with realtime communication for millions of people simultaneously.

New is good, I really enjoy fooling around on Twitter with different social media experiments and just shooting shit with complete strangers. But, Twitter is new, and entirely freeform. We have no idea who is going to come up with a new way of using it, or how it's going to impact the whole of Twitterverse. In turn, that means we don't know what's going to happen next, which means we can't plan for contingencies.

One of my favorite tech quotes is, "This is complicated enough, let's not make it any more complicated." There is a huge, complicated world out there online, and if we can do one thing good, and plan for the problems that could arise if that one thing takes off like wildfire, then life will be interesting, and complicated, enough.
Tue, 15 Jun 2010 09:07:39 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Economy is Going to Get Worse, but that's okay's no denying that money is a lot tighter in most places, and while we need to have optimism, there's no reason to hide from the simple fact that our economy is changing and we aren't going to see things go back to "normal" anytime soon, if ever.

There are three huge issues that are going to continue to cause a lot of chaos and just plain old economic suffering over the next couple years:

1) The Housing Market
We're nowhere close to done with this one. Although the numbers came in last month saying that foreclosures were down, the reality is repossession is UP -- that is the banks are actually taking title on more houses. The fear is that they're clearing out the backlog before they go back to foreclose some more.

Now, there is a good side to this which is that the people under the crushing debt of huge house payments don't have to make those payments anymore, but because the housing market keeps being depressed by too many cheap, bank foreclosures, no one is seeing equity come back which means A) no retirement and B) no slush funds on home equity lines.

2) Oil
The Gulf spill is bad and even if I'm wrong that the gulf is going to die from low oxygen levels and the fishing and tourism trades will never recover, the short term is that fishing and tourism are practically shut down, hitting an already economically depressed region with another blow.

Regardless of what happens in the Gulf, it's a reminder that we're doing risky stuff to keep oil flowing, and we're on the brink of oil getting much more expensive. All 33 deep sea wells are shut down in the Gulf right now, and it's not likely there will be a lot more construction going on in the near future.

Our entire economy is driven by oil, from food to computers, to all the cheap stuff we buy at IKEA -- as oil continues to climb the basic cost of getting grapes from Chile or fertilizing corn in Nebraska will continue to go up.

3) Unemployment
While it looks like the Senate is going to extend unemployment again, it's getting harder to pass and, honestly, harder to justify. Eventually a whole lot of people are going to find themselves without that federal assistance, and already a lot have lost their COBRA medical extensions -- meaning the cost of insurance is going up for these people as their income disappears.

One big problem is that a lot of the jobs that went away are never coming back. With automation, over seas labor, and just plain changes in the way businesses work, a lot of jobs just don't exist anymore. How the people who have been on unemployment looking for that finance job or mid-level management position are going to adapt to a different job market is something we don't know yet.
*  *  *  *

Now, I'm not saying it's all doom and gloom, but we can't pretend everything is okay.

Part of this is the cost of globalization, which means the world, in general, has more people living the American Dream; they just happen to be in India, China, South America or Eastern Europe... There is lots of work out there if only because the country is in crisis. The trick is to be flexible and adapt to rapidly changing needs and understand that things really are different, and as painful as it's going to be, roller coasters can be fun.
Tue, 8 Jun 2010 08:38:56 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Time lost on Twitter are often complaining about how much time social media seems to cost them. The reasons they cite are generally along the lines of reading lots of inane material, looking at photos of people they don't really know, and responding in kind.

I think there's another, much more insidious way that we lose time on Social Media -- we edit out all the times we reload pages or wait for a response.

Think of it this way -- when you upload photos or post a note to Facebook, you click on the link, wait a few seconds, click on the post button, wait a few seconds, upload, wait a few seconds. Or, there's the fact that Twitter is often really slow. We've all seen the Fail Whale when the server cloud can't keep up with requests, so we generally hit the refresh button and get back into the flow.

All those seconds add up and next thing you know, you've spent hours of your life watching animated icons telling you to wait. And you edit that time out; that is, you don't count that as part of what you're doing, it just slips away.

In one sense this is a perfect Buddhist moment of Nirvana -- your mind is blank, you have attained a state of nothingness. In a sense of living life to the fullest, knowing that the clock is ticking... yeah, I think that's where I see the dark side of social media.

It's not that Social Media is bad, it's that the technology, and the way we use it, is stealing away our lives a few minutes at a time. It's no different than rush hour traffic, or waiting in line at the 12 items or less behind someone with 15 items and three forms of payment.

Except you eventually get home, or through the checkout lane. But with phone apps, computers at work, at home, laptops... it's like taking that traffic jam and long line with you where ever you go...
Tue, 25 May 2010 09:39:44 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Client Vendor Relationships am a consultant. I belong to professional consultant groups, and I read articles and blogs about consulting. A common thread in these discussions is how awful and disrespectful our clients are. But in all the complaining I see that most consultants don’t understand what is expected of them, and they don’t understand what the client’s goals and motivations are. In short, you have to do your job, and you have to expect the client to do his. You don’t get to complain about the client when you don’t do yours, and he does his.

Here’s what I mean. We consultants see our job as performing a particular service. So we complain that our clients don’t know what they want from us. They don’t understand their projects. They try to bend the project scope and get us to provide extra services. They force lower prices. We complain that the client does not understand all these cool things that we have done, and the client cannot see the value in the work we’ve done.

All these things are true. However, to complain about these things shows our lack of understanding and empathy for our clients. We need to understand several things about the client and their job. First, of course they don’t know what they are doing; otherwise they would not have hired the expert who does.

Second, their job is to make money. Everything we do for them must add value. They don’t care how cool the work is. They care how much money the work you do will make for them. Since they don’t understand the details of what you do their first approach is to try to get the most for the least, so they nearly universally see it as their job to push the scope, and to get extra things done for less money.

The client is planning to spend a lot of money on something he does not understand. Therefore, the client is going to distrust you, and is going to test you.

So now that we understand the client, the really hard part is: what do we do with that information? Some of the answer to that question is in how the client pursues their goals, and the rest of it rest entirely on the consultant.

First you really have to understand the client’s goals. Second, you must make some very clear decisions as to what will further those goals. Do you need to do some really cool stuff? Is this simple and straight forward with no real obstacles? Do you need to work some miracles for this to work? Only do work that adds value. Don’t do work that does not. Know the difference.

Don’t categorize the work into A work and B work noting that this client only wants to pay for B work. This client only wants to pay for value added work. That is his job.

Now it’s time to talk to the client. You have to find a way to explain the project to the client without scaring him. On the one hand, you have to let him know the risks of what he is getting into. Risk is scary, so the client will be suspicious.

Now with all this being said, some clients are problems and will cost you money and reputation. Part of your job is to find this out and fire the clients that will hurt you. Remember, you are also in business to make money. A client that cost you money or reputation fails in the business plan. How to recognize the wrong client is another story
Tue, 20 Apr 2010 20:12:41 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Twitter's back alleys and dark places keeps evolving. No, that's not really true, Twitter, itself, is pretty much what it was two years ago. But the way we USE Twitter has changed tremendously over the last year or so.

But with evolution comes unexpected consequences, and the view I'm getting lately is turning ugly. Let's see if I can sum up how Twitter is set up to fall into the sewer:

Status vs Chat
Twitter was originally called a "mircroblogging site." The idea was just to tell people what you're doing, and more precisely, to share with a specific circle of your friends. It's being used as a random chat room -- and chat almost always turns dirty.

While I don't see anything really wrong with chat, I wouldn't expect Proctor and Gamble or Comcast to put their customer service people into chat rooms where people are exchanging details about what they want to do to each other's genitalia.

Ultimately the value of chat isn't very high -- it's a useful social function, but unless you assemble an Algonquin Round Table of smart, witty, articulate people, Twitter is doomed to be "LOL! RT @DumassDude Fart noyz is kool!"

See but not seen
It is possible to keep other people from seeing your posts by setting your profile to private, but that doesn't stop people from contacting you; all they have to do is "mention" you as in "Hey, @your_name, check out this filthy link:". (See Twitter Followers Don't Matter (ask the porn sites))

The only way you can choose not to see something is to block an individual. Of course, everyone else can see what that person is saying about you, and if they "retweet" you'll still see it. Not only that, but all they have to do is set up another account and hit you again until you block THAT account.

This is the equivalent of responding to being verbally assaulted by putting your hands on your ears, closing your eyes and repeating, "Nah nah nah. I'm not listening." But it's your only recourse.

Adult Content
Every social media and blog site I've seen has some form of adult content notification. Yahoo has been doing this with their groups for over a decade. Facebook has age restrictions. Blogspot puts up a roadblock that says "Do you really want to see this content?" Google has "safe search." Even Craigslist, the nickel ads for hookers and swingers, has a warning on their dating and "Casual Encounters" sections.

But Twitter not only has no filters for adult content, it doesn't provide ANY filters of any kind. The fact that my company message might appear in the same stream of text as someone talking, in graphic detail, about what they're doing on their webcam, right now could prove embarrassing in the board meeting.

I'm not advocating censorship, but I am advocating tagging certain accounts for certain behavior so that if I'm not interested in dirty talk, I can turn it off. I actually like the Google solution best -- let me set my level of safety depending on my mood or what I'm doing. I may want really filtered results when at work, and I may want to go wild at home, but I should be able to choose.

Cyber Bullying
Probably one of the darker things I've been seeing on Twitter lately has been the cyber bullying. This is happening a lot with the liberal/conservative, um, "debate" is probably too nice a word.

Someone, let's say "Bob" will decide they don't like someone else, "Mary." Because Twitter is a big open forum, Bob can start saying that Mary is not only a horrible person, but can also say thing like "OMG! I can't believe she said this RT @Mary I kill puppies for fun!" Mary may never have said such a thing, but there is absolutely no recourse, or any way to validate that Mary is, indeed, a puppy killer.

This can then lead to a slew of people blocking Mary, and if enough people block her, Twitter will suspend her account, with very little recourse left to Mary. I've been through this one with an experimental account where Twitter decided I was devious, and I can tell you, proving otherwise to Twitter is a frustrating, "guilty even if proven innocent" process. My guess is that as Twitter becomes more rambunctious, the available Twitter support staff to make judgements about he says/she says arguments is only going to get worse.

Open API
For the non-technical reader, the API is a way that I can write my own programs that talk to Twitter. I see a lot of accounts that are just a stream of advertisements, and the source is almost always "API" or some program like "Twitfeed."

It's one thing to promote yourself in the course of a conversation. It's another thing to be standing in a cocktail party, chatting with you neighbor, and have someone interrupt you by shouting, "I sell cars on 9th Street! Come on over!" It's disruptive, and it's very easy to do with the tools Twitter has created.

The programs are tireless, and they are learning the limits of Twitter's monitoring programs that might otherwise shut them down for abusing the API. This means more and more "content" on Twitter isn't content at all, and people quickly lose interest as Twitter loses relevancy. But the noise remains.

The theme here is the complete lack of control in the Twitterverse. These problems can be solved, and may get solved using tools like Tweetdeck or other clients built on the Twitter API, but that always leaves the question of how Twitter will make money if no one is using Twitter's interface.
Thu, 15 Apr 2010 09:36:18 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Social Media is NOT Advertising was reading an article on Mashable the other day (What Social Media Ad Types Work Best?) where they went through seven kinds of online advertising:
  • banner ads -- Plain old display ad on a web page

  • newsletter subscription ads -- Display ad in a newsletter sent to you

  • corporate profiles with fans and logos -- Primarily Facebook fan pages

  • corporate profiles without fans or logos -- Less interactive Facebook fan page

  • get widgets -- something you can download an post on your site

  • give widgets and sponsored content -- something you can send to a friend

They basically discovered that relevance trumps all. That is, if you want to sell soup, put a basic banner ad on a cooking website.

It is true that if you let people interact, that is give your "food fight" widget to a friend, thus putting your brand out there, you'll get more eyeballs seeing your soup brand. But you won't necessarily sell more soup, at least not directly.

What I came away with from this study is that social media is so much noise -- you can't control the noise, although you can inject your own noise into the cacophony of millions of updates and snapshots and illicit conversations.

Social media advertising isn't much different than driving a truck through the city with your company name on the side. It keeps your brand in front of people, reinforcing the campaign, but it has to be part of a broader campaign. Thousands of people might see your logo trundling by on the side of a truck, but if that's all you have, your logo disappears from their minds before they even realize they saw it.

Now, don't get me wrong -- social marketing is way more than advertising, which is all this study looked at. You can't buy good, social awareness. You have to institutionalize it, and you have to use every communication tool at your disposal to truly interact with people and reinforce why your company is better than the alternative.

And that has nothing to do with social media, but just good, old fashioned, business planning.
Sun, 11 Apr 2010 09:41:47 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Microsoft Courier all the hype about the iPad, it's always nice to look at alternatives. I posted the HP Slate last month, and Teagan was good enough to remind me of the Microsoft Courier, which looks pretty "revolutionary and magical"

Of course, Microsoft is FANTASTIC at product demos; I don't think I've ever seen them show off a piece of technology that didn't look like the next best thing, until you get it home and try to figure out how they did the great tricks they had memorized for the presentation.

Regardless, it's always nice to see what people are thinking about, kind of like going to the auto show and seeing that car that runs on water -- you can't buy it, and it has huge drawbacks, but it's fun to think about.ID#comments
Thu, 8 Apr 2010 09:29:46 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Form (designers) versus Function (geeks) need to make something clear -- I don't actually hate Apple. They make great products, they have amazing branding, incredible marketing, and a loyal customer base.

I hate that the competition doesn't do better.

I don't mean the competition doesn't make good products, I mean that they don't care about presentation and care more about features than usability. Technology has been controlled by the geeks, and geeks aren't exactly known for their fashion sense. Add a sense of "first to market" desperation and you get the DVD players, phones, and hard-to-use crap we spend way to much money and time on.

Most companies that try to blend form and function fail miserably -- the function guys (geeks) don't understand why the form guys (designers) insist on that shade of ecru and figure dirty white is good enough. The form guys can't understand why the function guys can't just make it work.

Instead of calling a simple device "revolutionary and magical", the geeks present a really complex, obtuse interface that does millions of things and say, "read the fucking manual" or worse yet, RTFM, being cryptic, insulting and unhelpful all in one tight little acronym. It doesn't matter that Apple's "Geniuses" are nimrods, they're friendly and polite and you feel okay about giving them a hundred bucks to throw away your old iPod.

As long as form doesn't kill you, it will always trump function. Hell, it can even kill you from time to time, cigarettes being a great example of marketing over benefit.

Somewhere on the Form<------>Function dialectic, you find management going off on a tangent. They don't care or understand either extreme and just wish the geeks and the designers would shut up and quit bitching and get a product out the door, usually rushing so the design is ugly, and the functionality just doesn't quite work.

"We'll send out a patch post-release..." The consumer shouldn't even know what a patch is, let alone a "beta" version. If they get one thing that works, that they don't have to call technical support for, that doesn't need a seminar or a training course, the will buy it. The iPad being a case in point.

Apple has mastered the art of Top Secret R&D which buys them time to get the product working, make it look and feel nice, and figure out how to make everyone believe that the limitations are really cool.

Now, if we could just get the rest of the tech world to slow down, talk a little, and produce something that works and is pleasing, then I can stop ranting about Apple.
Wed, 7 Apr 2010 10:24:20 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
PDXBOOM -- The power of social media and the portland pipe bomb night Markie and I were at home working away on our laptops when there was a deafening "boom" shaking the house and scaring the crap out of the cats -- not that I was feeling entirely relaxed about it.

I went outside to see if there was anything to see, and found all our neighbors on their porches yelling things to each other like, "What the hell was that?" It kind of reminded me of an old Twilight Zone where the world is coming to an end but we just don't quite know it yet.

Of course, the world didn't come to an end, and after calling 911 to be told "yeah, we know," everyone wandered back into their houses and their Sunday night routines (which judging by the bottles and glasses in everyone's hands, those routines include a lot of drinking...) A fire truck wandered through the neighborhood a little later, looking in vain for something to extinguish, but nothing was found.

This morning when I got up I tried to learn more about what happened. I found an article on the Oregonian's website that said the police and fire departments knew nothing, but that that Twitter was ablaze with discussion on the hashtag #pdxboom. People apparently heard it as far away as Vancouver and with no concrete answers from the city, rumors were flying online.

Twitter became a sort of a front porch with a lot more neighbors. The discussion went from concerned, somber speculation to playful fantasy where comments like Portland was trying to forcibly eject Lake Oswego and Doctor Who references abounded.

But then something more productive also happened. @spinnerin had created an interactive Google map allowing you to post where you were when you heard the BOOM and how loud it was, color coding your boom by intensity:

While completely unscientific from a data collection standpoint, this was one of those amazing Social Media moments. Suddenly you could see the "blast pattern" of noise. You could read the anecdotes of what people were doing or thought about the boom. It was better coverage than the traditional news could ever do with their random interviews of people on the street -- you could see what people around you thought, and get an idea of if your experience was the same as the people miles away.

And I like to think it helped the police find the remains of the pipe bomb. Clues were scattered through the postings, with more volume of reports than a cop on a beat could get. It was pretty obvious that the explosion happened in Sellwood, and the two reports from the river saying they saw a flash along with the boom could only have helped to focus the search on the east bank south of the Sellwood Bridge.

It's what I keep saying about filters and learning how to use these new media. It's not just Twitter, it's people using the Internet to communicate. Maybe they aren't communicating directly with anyone, maybe it's just a random posting that says "I saw a flash and heard a boom."

But this mix of random stuff brings a city of 1 million people together as if they're all on their porches figuring out what to do about the loud noise they all heard.

Mon, 29 Mar 2010 15:45:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
China and Apple -- Different organizations, same management rant about Apple a lot, probably more than is healthy. Mostly I'm ranting about the disconnect between how people perceive Apple (hip, progressive, cool) and the way the company actually runs things (iron fisted control over production, distribution, and most disturbingly to me, what you can do with the product once you buy it).

Watching the issues between Google and China is kind of like watching the issues between Google and Apple. The differences aren't about technology limitations or competition for business, the differences are about who has control -- is it the individual or the organization?

Apple and China both believe the organization should control what the individual does and how they do it. It seems to work to make a happier general population; Apple users are almost fanatical about the product and the Chinese populace has a sense of national pride usually reserved for old men with nostalgia.

Except both Apple and China have their detractors with the educated crowd -- in Apple's case it's the technical savvy and in China's it's the world savvy who have gone to university and traveled and seen there are other ways to do things.

The frustration is the same -- when the organization controls the population, life becomes more homogeneous, you have fewer choices, more limitations on what you can do, and innovation stagnates.

Google provided a standard for Chinese companies to work towards, but from what I've seen and read, without an outside impetus, Chinese companies tend to copy each other rather than invest in R&D.

Apple has been steadily copying other technologies, and while they made a great MP3 player and prettier smartphone, they really offer nothing fundamentally new, to the point that even the uneducated, fanatical masses recognize the iPad as just another iPod/iPhone/iTouch clone.

The world faces some really serious challenges with too many people and too few resources. This is when we need innovation, but the problem is that the benevolent dictator model makes people happy. It's in part because all this shit is so complicated that we need someone to tell us, "This is how it works," even if there are other, better ways to make it work.

Of course it was this ideal that led to the "I was just following orders" defense...
Thu, 25 Mar 2010 08:38:46 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The volume of screens couple years back we had the unfortunate experience of purchasing the contents of a trade show booth for a client who didn't pay. Most of what you develop for a trade show booth is completely unusable for anyone other than the client, but there were a couple of 32" LCD TVs as part of the display -- after a while they ended up in my house.

This means that in addition to the 42" TV downstairs and the little 13.5" TV in the kitchen that we already had, we now have a 32" TV in the home office and another one hanging on the wall in the bedroom (I never wanted a TV in the bedroom, but when I had the flu last year, it was nice to have access to movies).

The square footage of screens that I have available to me is absolutely staggering. Let's do some quick math --

   36" Home office: 426.25"
   36" Bedroom: 426.25"
   42" Basement: 756"
   13.5" Kitchen: 93.5"

    1,703 square inches or about 12 square feet of viewing area

That's just the TVs. I've got a 14" diagonal screen on the Sony Viao I'm typing on right now and Markie's Dell has another 90 square inches. Add in the tower downstairs and we have around 14 square feet of viewable screens in the house, and that's not even counting my Windows Mobile and her iPhone screens or the company laptops that come to visit like Toughbook or the new netbook I bought for SXSW.

If we gathered all these screens together it would be an obscene display of geekdom. Heck, even having them scattered through the house it's pretty obscene. But we're not an unusual household, and the volume I have is in part because my job requires me to be online, and in part by accident -- others get here by intention.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I'm starting to think it might be paved with LCD screens.
Fri, 19 Mar 2010 23:04:53 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Logorama just watched the Oscar winning short "logorama"

Fun film, great animation, but that's pretty much how I see L.A. -- so is it really satire or just way too close to home?ID#comments
Mon, 15 Mar 2010 06:45:57 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Google Adds Biking Directions to Maps introduced its Beta bicycle route finder in Google Maps this week. In short, it’s pretty cool and well thought out. However, I have been reading the one and two sentence e-mail quips coming form bike clubs, and the criticism is high. So to understand why bicyclists are griping I went online to create a few routes. Here’s what I found:

There are several things to remember when using this tool. First, the route I like is not always the route that the other cyclist will choose. This seems to me one of the biggest gripes “I used Google Maps for Bicycle routes and it routed me this way when I prefer that way”. Here’s a tip – The computer can’t read your mind. Sometimes it feels like it can, but it can’t – really.

The real test here is “would that route have worked for someone from out of the area who does not know the nuances of the local roads?” So I asked Google maps to get me to places I know well to see if the routes were o.k. In each case Google gave me routes different from what I would have selected for my self, but the routes would have worked if I were from out of town. It appeared the main difference between the Google routes and my own was hills. Google notes in their blog that they will try to avoid hills. I like hills and don’t make an effort to miss them. Thus I see lots of neat stuff and take routes that are less traveled. However, that’s me – not everyone. When I tried customizing the routes to go on the hills, the entire route adjusted much more to my liking.

Next I went to cities that I am less familiar with and asked Google Maps to get me from one likely touristy place to another. In Denver went from Sloan Park to the Denver Zoo, and on the eastern seaboard I went from Veteran’s Park in Trenton NJ to Long Beach NY. In both cases Google Maps gave me options. I reviewed the routes against other data and found that the selected routes were really very good. Were there other secret routes the local cyclists would use to go to the same place? Probably. However, the routes selected by Google were better than I would have done on my own, as a geographer, map geek, and cyclist.

The second thing to note is that Google is only able to work with the data available. In the Seattle Area, the City of Seattle and King County (in which Seattle sits) have done a very good job of created bike route maps. Whereas Snohomish County, the next county north of King has done a poor job of creating bike rout maps. When using Google in both King and Snohomish Counties, I find Google lacking in Snohomish, while doing very well in King. Google is apparently trying to fix this lack of data. They note that the bicycle route function is in Beta and that they would like input on errors. If all of us cyclist tell Google about issues, they will fix the issues and the maps will get better and better. Remember how bad the car routing was when Map Quest first came out? Now you can get good reliable routing from Map Quest, Google, and Yahoo without any worries. I think we should expect the same improvements from Google Bike Routes as well.
Thu, 11 Mar 2010 10:11:28 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Transmedia you need a new word, but most of the time there is a perfectly good word that you don't know or maybe just don't like. Corporate America loves new words, and I'm not sure why, after all, they don't treat the words they have particularly well...

Take this word: Transmedia. While it sounds like the transexual porn section of the video store, it's actually a marketing term that refers to storytelling, where "content becomes invasive and permeates fully the audience's lifestyle." (wiki).

Which means omnipresent storytelling, or cross-media, or just plain pervasive media.

Creating a word to describe your idea isn't new, but we used to call it "branding." You would come up with an idea for a new soft drink, coin a term, trademark it, and create Coca Cola. Eventually the word Coke means any soft drink. The generic word "soft drink" is still there, but the mainstream use of "Coke" only happens after the brand, and therefore the word, is established in popular culture.

The prevailing thought now is to create a word, and use it enough that you force it into popular culture. It almost never works, as seen with the broken trail of words and jargon.

The problem I have with making up words is based in one of my basic maxims: This stuff is complicated enough, we don't have to make it more complicated. The process of explaining your concept of pervasive storytelling is slowed down by creating a word that could be gay porn or a Soviet telegraph.

I'm not saying that "pervasive storytelling" isn't a mouthful, but if I look up the words on or, lord help us, in a book, the words have meaning and I don't need a wiki or a jargon dictionary to figure out the concept on my own.

Now take your crazy talk and get off my lawn...
Tue, 9 Mar 2010 17:11:13 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
That magical little tablet iPad got a release date and a spiffy ad on the Oscars last night. I gotta say, they make it look sexy...

Oh, wait, that's not the iPad, that's a tablet PC from HP. And it's got Flash, multi-tasking, and a full operating system.

Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer for HP’s personal system group posted on HP's blog, "With this slate product, you’re getting a full web browsing experience in the palm of your hand. No watered-down internet, no sacrifices."

Unfortunately, we don't know when or how much, but if there's one good thing coming out of Apple's aggressive marketing it would be upping the ante and other players stepping up.ID#comments
Mon, 8 Mar 2010 22:40:10 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
How your website can be in two places at once get questions from clients often about how long it takes to move a website. Sometimes when we move a site, it seems like it's still running in two places at once, and that's because it really is -- not every computer on the Internet has gotten the new location of the web site.

As a kind of geek-translation review, here's what happens when you move a web address:

1) Whois Record/Name Servers
When you register your domain name, you tell the registrar what name servers you're going to use. So if I look up I see two name servers listed:


There are two name servers for redundancy, one that's the primary and one that gets a copy of the address from the primary. So, if I change the numeric address for from, say to, it can take time for the secondary server to get the new address.

2) Your provider's Name Server
Your computer doesn't go directly to NS1.CONQUENT.COM to locate my web site, instead, your computer asks your ISP, such as Comcast. When you look up you ask Comcast to, in turn, ask NS1. Comcast can cache (or keep a copy) of the old record for up to 24 hours -- so even if you're on a computer that's never visited the website, you still might get the old IP address.

Keep in mind, this is a good thing -- it means that all the people who are visiting sites don't overwhelm NS1.CONQUENT.COM with requests. You visit on Comcast, it looks up the address, and then your neighbor visits, and Comcast doesn't have to bug us again asking for the same info -- it's part of that redundant system concept that makes the Internet work.

3) Your personal computer DNS cache
Just as Comcast holds onto a copy of the old DNS record, your personal computer holds onto a copy. Restarting your computer can flush the local copies of the old DNS, or you can get geeky and (in Windows), shut down all your browsers, run the Command prompt and type:

    ipconfig /flushdns

but most folks who even have the technical savvy to do this probably won't go to that extent.

Even when I try to translate these concepts into plain English, I know it's still pretty thick. But that's why I say, yeah... it's complicated.
Thu, 4 Mar 2010 09:49:57 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Masterpieces created by sheer volume of my favorite movies is Casablanca. It's a great love triangle and you really don't know exactly where the story going the first time you watch it. It's almost like the writers didn't know how the movie was going to end as it was being filmed... well, it's exactly like that. They wrote the last scene pretty much just before they shot it.

Ingrid Bergman plays Ilsa as being in love with both Rick and Victor not because she's a great actress (which she was), but because she honestly didn't know which man Ilsa ended up with. The dramatic twist ending ("Round up the usual suspects") was the most expedient way to end the film.

This was the studio system era where a studio would knock out 52 movies a year with whatever talent they had on hand. The cast was whoever Warner Brothers had available, and they had lots of different ideas of who should play whom; we just got lucky. They used a staff composer and got Max Steiner (Gone with the Wind) and the signature "As Time Goes By" only stayed in the movie because there wasn't time to write a new piece of music -- 52 movies a year means you keep on schedule.

It turns out that Casablanca is one of the greatest films of all time not because someone worked hard to create a masterpiece, but because of random numbers and volume. It's like the idea that an infinite number of monkeys on keyboards with infinite amount of time will eventually randomly type Shakespeare's Hamlet. Enough random banging at the studio and you get Casablanca.

And here we are with the Internet and everyone posting their random thoughts, pictures, and films. There's some amazing stuff online and more amazing stuff coming down the pipe if only because the sheer volume of creativity that's being captured and distributed.

Sure, 99.999999999% of it is useless crap, but I'll argue that in the next few years we're going to see some work of art come out of nowhere, and the only reason we'll get to see it is because we live in an age where there's so much content that quantum physics comes into play for the next great masterpiece.

Wed, 3 Mar 2010 10:13:36 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Suing over lack of originality primer on what a patent really is: A fantastic oxymoron where the government decides you're creative and grants you a dry legal right to sue people with similar ideas. It's a first come first serve system, regardless of who actually created what.

Today Apple sued HTC because Apple has patents that say they're the first company to patent a number of things, even when they obviously weren't the first to do these things. For example
  • Unlocking A Device By Performing Gestures On An Unlock Image I had this on a Sony Clie running Palm OS in 2003
  • System And Method For Managing Power Conditions Within A Digital Camera DeviceI believe Nokia is suing Apple over this very thing
  • Object-Oriented Graphic System They already lost this one when they sued Microsoft mainly because Apple stole the idea from Xerox

Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, said Tuesday in a statement. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

It's not easy to say where an idea comes from, but we all know that they aren't created in a vacuum. If you come up with something really cool, it doesn't mean that someone else didn't come up with the same idea. "Not steal ours" is insulting to the tech world -- HTC could have independently come up with the same ideas, ideas that Apple obviously didn't come up with independently.

Patents are supposed to make it easier to protect your investment. I may dis Apple regularly, but the iPhone is a great integration of a lot of different ideas, and it's the gestalt of those ideas that makes it king, not the little widgets that they bamboozled the US Patent office into awarding legal "wow" status to.

The reality is innovation slows when you treat little ideas like big ideas and sue people because they have some of the same little ideas -- if Apple had its way, there would be no Microsoft, there would be no Linux. There's a whole universe of ideas that Steve Jobs didn't patent, or maybe he did, and failed to enforce his patents. And the world is a richer place for that.
Tue, 2 Mar 2010 12:20:21 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
A Primer on Internet Fame -- dancing babies, hamsters, numa numa, and more... Internet gives you the chance to be famous. Unfortunately, it's usually for the stupidest stuff on the planet... stuff that sticks in our minds and won't get out. My problem is that I find myself referencing one of these bits of Internet pop culture that went wild and then the person I'm talking to gives me a blank stare. I mean it's bad enough that I referenced it, it's worse when I have to try to explain what the hell I'm talking about.

So, as a public service, okay, a self-service, I decided to put together a quick primer of some of the, ahem, "high" points of Internet pop culture gone wild.

It all started with a dancing baby:

This is the one that started as the crappy animated GIF you see here and went all the way to being a guest character on Ally McBeal (and there's a dated TV reference if I've ever seen one).

About the same time we got the amazingly annoying dancing hamster site. I have to embed a YouTube video of it as the site no longer exists, but let me warn you before you hit play, the song gets stuck in your head:

The original was actually just four images repeated over and over again and a short WAV file looping -- this was amazning! Animation AND audio! And it NEVER ended... The original tune (Whistle Stop by Roger Miller) isn't really much less annoying, but it's more mellow...

Of course, with the invention of YouTube, we got a lot more annoying song and dance numbers. The most famous being the Numa Numa guy.

I don't know what it is about this fat guy lip syncing to Dragostea Din Tei, but it a catchy tune (be sure to check out the original O-Zone version, the opera version and The Bloodhound Gang's cover).

Where Gary Brolsma embraced being the "numa numa guy", the Star Wars kid decided to sue after some friends released this video of him goofing off in front of the camera (you don't have to watch the whole thing to get the gist):

Someone else took the video and made this amazing redeaux:

Personally, I would have been pretty thrilled to have my goofy antics turned into kickass Jedi moves. Other people thought is was cool too, so they made versions of it for Matrix, Kill Bill and more.

But then let's not forget the guy who really worked it: Tay Zonday and his oddly compelling original song, "Chocolate Rain"

He's an anomaly because he's, well, odd, but he created his own slice of pop culture. He turned a buck off his Internet fame by selling out to Dr. Pepper for his own Cherry Chocolate Rain Parody

If it wasn't for the Internet, nobodies would never get their odd little messages out. Oh, except for that movable type thing and Martin Luther... and the Underground in WWII... and pirate radio... oh, and gossip... and...

Fri, 26 Feb 2010 17:19:53 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Checking my messages alarm goes off at 6:30 in the morning, and if that doesn't get me out of bed, the trucks rumbling by get noisier by 7. Most mornings I roll over, grab my phone and check my email -- although the first email of the day is more of a purging of spam that slipped through the filter over night. I occasionally also have to respond to a text message that came in the dark of night from some drunk or desperate friend or maybe one of those East coast colleagues who forget it's three hours earlier here...

Then I wander downstairs to my computer where I check Twitter for mentions @bissell, Direct Messages, and new followers I might want to follow back. More and more often the followers are Twitter whores trying to sell me services to get more followers, so less and less do I follow them back (an ironic circle when you think about it).

Next I pop over to the Facebook tab to respond to any messages and check notifications. Granted, I already know if I have messages before I get there as I get a notice in my email, but responding still requires a visit to the ever changing Facebook interface.

I peek in on LinkedIn somewhere in there, but as I'm not actively hiring, and LinkedIn has become more of an online job fair, I don't seem to get a lot of contact there.

Of course I need to check out my blog to see if there are comments that need to be purged or responded to. While I'm there, I look over the logs which tell me not only how many people have visited my blog but where a lot of them came from. So, if I see an intriguing keyword or a link from a site I'm not familiar with, I have to take a peek just to see in what context people are talking about me. (Someone liked my blog about being out of shape today... Hmm...)

Messages are sometimes hidden in data, so I have to check the stats from other logs for the primary Conquent websites and projects. I have a little overview dashboard that pulls stats from multiple places so I know things like Google owes Conquent 11 bucks for advertising, the Hallmark Channel Valentines Day campaign is over, and I found that was broken because there was no traffic at all.

Over to the Conquent Task Manager where I assign a quick task to the tech managing Jokeindex, review a couple other tasks assigned to me, and write the appropriate responses.

Back to the cell phone to check voice mail, and then I can take a shower, finish my coffee and get my ass to the office. Of course when I get to the office there's US Mail, FedEx pouches and UPS boxes, but we don't really count that as part of our daily communication anymore, do we?
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 07:58:09 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Rules are made to be broken -- in a reasoned, systematic way have a real problem with rules.... Some people say that "rules are made to be broken" but I think more along the lines that rules are made by someone else, and that makes them easy to ignore.

The real problem I have with rules is other people's blind faith in the rules. I agree, rules are necessary for society to function, but not all rules are laws, and not all laws are rational or even reasonable.

The complex world we live in often needs complex rules, but solving problems in this world means forgetting about rules and looking at the issues. Maybe that's what I like about scientific method -- the idea is to break the rules except for one -- the solution needs to work and be repeatable by others.

"Just do it because I said and Damn the rules!" is just as emotional and irrational as "I don't care if we're all going to die, the rules say we can't!" There is a time, just about every day in my world, where we have to say, "We need to ignore that rule because..."

And here's the rub. The explanation for why we need to ignore a rule is often so complicated your audience might as well hear "because I said so."

Which gets me back to pure science as a business tool... Science breaks rules by documenting how the rule is irrelevant or changed by new information. That new information is reviewed by other people who know the subject matter, and then they either agree or disagree. Once there's agreement, we're not breaking the rules anymore, we've adapted the rules to the new reality.

The problem is that business needs to turn these ideas around faster than the scientific community changes the laws of physics, or even comes to agreement on evolution or global warming.

What we need is a plain English, standardized method to explore business ideas. It's not the technology that's missing (Wiki's are great for this model), it's the business culture, and the only way I can see getting business people to adopt scientific process is to say "Just do it because I said so!" and that's not the mindset that adopts this model.

Guess I'll just keep breaking rules...
Fri, 12 Feb 2010 15:35:39 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
So many accounts, so few passwords the Twitter stream this morning, I saw a couple notes go by from @chrisorourke:
Hmm looks like someone is hitting all of my online account password recovery tools. 17 texts in the last 10 minutes... about 3 hours ago from Seesmic

Looks like they didn't manage to break into any of my accounts. Nice try, Mr. Hacker. 5 minutes ago from web

DISREGARD THAT, I SUCK COCKS!!! 2 minutes ago from web

GOD DAMNIT, IT WAS PHONE!!! 2 minutes ago from web

Now, I'm not sure if that last post came from Chris or the hacker, but it sounds like he got hacked (cracked?) because someone had access to at least one of his email accounts -- that is, all they were doing was asking services to send login information to the email address on file, and once they got that, they were in.

This might not have been a big problem back in the day that we only had a couple passwords for a couple places. But now we a have couple passwords for multiple email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, flickr or some other photo share and a host of services that, in turn, tie into these things.

Most people I know only have one, or maybe two, passwords, so if you get the password to one account, you're in most of the other accounts. Changing those passwords regularly is almost impossible -- I have literally dozens of social media accounts out there, and I've set up logins on various bulletin boards or other information services that I don't even remember visiting. If I used my real email address and a repetitive password on all of those, then I just handed login info to OTHER sites to whoever runs that board.

I try to be careful and use an obscure Hotmail account and provide no personal information, but it's getting harder to avoid. and Google both have access to a LOT of my accounts. Maybe they don't have my passwords (well, Google does), but it effectively doesn't matter -- bad boy cracker gets into a master account like one of those, and he can spam dozens of websites simultaneously.

This is, in part, the cost of Joe Everyman wanting the spotlight. Everyone wants their voice to rise above the noise, but self publishing online is hard work. People get lazy managing multiple accounts, but when a hacker/slacker/code cracker gets in and uses your accounts for a moment of mental masturbation (why else are the fake postings always about sex?), it's not just the time recovering face, it's the time it takes recovering all those accounts...ID#comments
Thu, 11 Feb 2010 07:08:51 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Who really uses Twitter? 60% of Twitter's traffic isn't on Twitter are two ways to post and read stuff on Twitter -- you can fire up your web browser and go to or you can or you can use the API. Well, not really "use the API" but rather, use a program that some geek wrote that uses the API.

And there are LOTS of Twitter programs out there. I'm running a report right now that grabs what program people use to post comments on Twitter and in less than 24 hours I've seen over 350 unique apps. Sure, most of them are hardly used at all, but that's kind of my point -- people don't use Twitter, they use Twitter's database.

Let me see if some numbers help... From a sampling of 12,760 postings, we saw 351 unique programs posting to Twitter. People posted to Twitter using Twitter's web interface less than 40% of the time. That means that 60% of the traffic on Twitter never sees

This is completely backwards from every web application out there. The idea has always been to build traffic. I remember a conversation I had with the folks at MSN who kept talking about "eyeballs" -- they wanted as many people to show up as possible, and then get those people to spend as much time on MSN websites as possible so they could deliver as many ads as possible.

MSN is one of the biggest properties on the Internet and their revenue model is the same one we had with tiny sites back in the 90's. Getting people to your site means controlling what they see and creating inventory that you can sell.

But Twitter is literally giving away inventory. It's like owning a shopping mall only you aren't charging the stores for using your building. You let them put up their own signs, sell products, and be completely autonomous while you provide the space and the infrastructure.

Now, I know Twitter got that $1 Billion valuation last year (New York Times), but I still have no idea why investors think this is such a valuable property -- sure, there are 13 million active users and 75 million accounts, and so many postings I won't even hazard a guess, but, who really sees Twitter?

And how do you leverage your customers if you don't see 60% of them?

Mon, 8 Feb 2010 10:08:50 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Web is a Jerry Rigged Kludge've all run into the website from hell, and a lot of times it's an important company like a bank or utility company. You can't figure out the navigation, you search the help pages and they talk about things that don't even exist, you get halfway through filling out the required information and suddenly find yourself kicked out of the system or trapped in an endless loop of screens... And you yell at the screen, "Who the hell builds a piece of shit like this?!?"

Everybody builds that piece of shit.

I say "everybody" because it's the programmer, the graphic designer, the marketing guy, the operations manager, the CEO, the hardware vendor, the admin assistant's cousin's daughter's boyfriend... Everybody gets their 2 cents in, and that pile of pennies turns into a pile of crap really fast. And that's just when building the site.

But let's pretend for a moment that the project followed the specification perfectly and a beautiful, functional web application hits the Internet. A couple months later something changes and a programmer is told to add a feature. The system wasn't really designed for this feature, but being a good problem solver, he opens the hood, finds a place he can bolt on the functionality, maybe gets a graphic designer to give it a nice paint job, and everything's good.

Then they do it again. And again. And again. Sometimes it's small additions, sometimes it takes huge modifications. And at the end of the day you end up with The Site From Hell, a Frankenstein's monster of add-ons, changes, and ideas that were really important for about 10 minutes in a board meeting a year ago.

Obviously not all web projects are run like this, but you'd be amazed at the size and sophistication of companies that do run their projects "on the fly." I've been invited into more than one company to tell them what they should do to fix their web issues, and the answer is almost always to throw it away and start over.

But even starting over is tough for these companies. The reason their web application got so screwed up in the first place is because their management is so screwed up. They assign someone, sometimes the head of marketing, sometimes the IT guy (who is often not the head of anything), sometimes a administrator who just got the job of "fixing our web site" but almost never a committee of department heads who are directly affected by the impact of the web.

A primary point of contact is one thing, a "decider" is important... but one person can't know all the ways the web needs to interact with an entire company. So the design specification is often missing something critical, and the process begins again.

I'll say it again -- the web is not your bastard stepchild. It IS your business. It's the first thing your prospects see, and it's the place that your customers want to go to interact with you. I don't care if you work in a broom closet, your website should imply greatness, and it should follow through with that greatness.

Otherwise your whole company is a jerry-rigged kludge.ID#comments
Thu, 4 Feb 2010 09:44:36 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Twitter: Asleep at the Mouse Wheel's an article on ComputerWorld's website saying "Twitter now has 75M users; most asleep at the mouse." While there are 75 million people on Twitter, only 17% of them actively posted anything to Twitter last month -- that's still almost 13 million people actively posting crap to Twitter.

I always find these articles on metrics amusing, that is amusing in the context of how to lie with statistics, or in this case, how to get all excited about nothing with statistics. You can read a lot of different things into the huge numbers of people not actively using their Twitter accounts but here are a few things to consider.

Placeholder Accounts: Most of the social media folks I know have more than one account -- Conquent naturally has its company account, which pretty much says "Follow @bissell," and then there are the accounts that people get for misspellings just as we've been doing with domain names for years. These are important accounts as brands like Michelin should own their name on Twitter, but they might not have anything to say every day.

Event Accounts: Before there were lists, and even now that there are lists, people set up special accounts for one-off events. Things like @SocialMediaConf where @AdBroad and I spoke in September has been dark since... Well, September. Show's over. Move along.

Fictional Characters: The Mad Men Twitterers all have multiple accounts, and when the curtain falls on the season, so does the chatter on Twitter about Mad Men. There are scores of other seasonal twitter workers out there, and they may fade away completely, but like placeholder accounts, they have a place in the Twitterverse.

Lurkers: The term "lurker" has been around for a long time, referring to people who read but don't write anything in places like chat rooms and (going way back) bulletin boards. Interesting thing about Twitter lurkers is that they aren't necessarily people but accounts set up to siphon links and comments out of the stream of tweets and post the info somewhere else.

That last one, lurkers, is particularly interesting. Twitter is different from any publishing platform we've seen so far because the information is so easy to grab and reuse, making the content that comes out of Twitter ubiquitous nuggets of info flowing all over the Internet.

So what if 13 million people generate the bulk of the content, only 1,400 people supposedly edit Wikipedia (see my blog on that topic) and yet no one seems to have stopped using it, nor do I think Twitter is going away anytime soon.

But, with this qualifier on the stats in hand, you're welcome to resume panicking about the death-knell of Twitter now.
Tue, 2 Feb 2010 09:11:34 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Where regulation is good: Google Voice and Vonage can't imagine being a government employee trying to keep up on what the government should be regulating and what it shouldn't. Take Google and Vonage, for example. These aren't phone companies, per se, but they sure act like phone companies -- they give you a phone number that can be dialed from any phone, and a service that lets you dial any other phone. Making two phones talk to each other seems like a phone company to me no matter what other services you offer or what technology you're using.

But Google and Vonage don't get regulated like phone companies because they're classed as "information services" which means they don't have to play by the same rules as all the other companies that connect phones to each other. Some of those rules are bunk, based on maintaining the infrastructure built by Ma Bell once upon a time (much of which is superceded by cable and wireless in the Voice over IP world of Google and Vonage).

But some of it is consumer protection. Things like phone number portability, which means that if you use Google Voice for your main business line (which I'm finding increasingly common in the consultant world) and you decide you want to change service, you can't keep your number.

Take the Conquent phone number in Portland, for example. When the company started 11 years ago, it was just me on a cell phone. But it was a regulated phone number owned by Qwest. So when I got sick of Qwest, I flipped it to Verizon. Then I used a little trick they had at the time that let me forward all my calls for a flat fee, so as Conquent grew and moved into different offices, I was able to point the number where I wanted, kind of like Google Voice today.

But one day, Verizon started metering all the calls being forwarded, which meant we were paying cell phone rates for every minute on inbound calls -- they didn't tell us, we just suddenly got a phone bill for over $1,000 where it had been $25. Again, because it was a regulated service, we were able to move the number and contest the bill. We then moved the old cell number to our land-line phone service, where it sits today, just like any other landline.

Enter the unregulated services -- Google and Vonage own those phone numbers, and they're in pools of numbers that aren't necessarily able to be moved to another carrier, even if they wanted to. Without consumer protections we have with the traditional telcos, a story like Conquent's wouldn't have such a simple, happy ending. Instead, all the time, effort, and money invested into a phone number goes away, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Mon, 1 Feb 2010 14:14:18 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
How Facebook is (unintentionally) forcing programmers to piss off users'm on Facebook, just like just about everyone else on the planet. (I visualize some tribal scene with a feather clad, makeup smeared warrior pulling out his iPhone and typing LOL on some random picture posted to his Wall.) Most of my friends on Facebook are either family or old schoolmates unlike my Twitter where I'm a little less selective, and a little more careful about clicking on links or engaging with people.

I don't engage in a lot of the quizzes and random stuff on FB, but when Alyssa Jenkins "hit me with a pillow" I went ahead and added the app and "hit her back." Over the next few days we hit each other with various pillows -- she'd hit me with the Luxury Pillow, I'd hit her with the Leather Pillow. Each time we hit the other, the Pillow Fight app would post the photo of the pillow being used to our respective walls and send a note to the person getting hit saying "you've got 2 days to hit back or you lose!"

With two days to hit back (an eternity for someone online as much as I am), the game could go on forever, which wouldn't be a problem until I got a roadblock that if I didn't grant them constant access to my account (meaning they could post whatever they wanted whenever they wanted) AND give them my real email address, not the FaceBook proxy, or else I wouldn't be able to hit Alyssa back.

I conceded the fight and deleted the app.

Normally this would be the end of the story, but after rating the app 1 out of 5 stars, one of the Pillow Fight developers sent me a note (because of my comment and previous use of the game, the Facebook app allows him to send a message via the Facebook messaging system) and he gave me some background.

First was the link to the FB Developers blog Communicating Directly with Your Users via Email explaining that Facebook is encouraging developers to communicate directly with users rather than using the FB messaging system. Second was a link to the developers roadmap wiki showing that Facebook will actually be taking away the current notification functionality.

Not only that, but there seems to be a bug in the FB API which creates a loop, that is to say, I can't get out of the "give us your email" messages and play the game, because FB doesn't give the programmers a way to get out of it.

Facebook is a tricky place to write applications -- you have to create most of your programming on your own servers but interact with custom code that Facebook keeps changing. The Pillow Fight guys seem sincere in trying to provide a fun game, and while they have the aesthetics of programmers (which means their interface isn't exactly a work of art), I know the frustration of having to write code and rewrite code based on events outside your control.

Of course, this is one of those themes I keep getting back to -- when your business model is completely dependent on one company, be it Facebook, Apple, or the coal mine, you're going to get screwed. Your interests are not the same as the big corporation you're playing with, and all it takes is a casual flick of a corporate finger somewhere to accidentally kill you.ID#comments
Sun, 31 Jan 2010 10:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Twit Cleaner seem to talk a lot about filtering the noise of all the yammering online. I also talk about how silly most of the applications names are, but I figured this one was worth mentioning as it really helps you understand your Twitter followers.

The Twit Cleaner (which is not a cheap prostitute for the Upper Class Twit of the Year) will run the most detailed analysis of who you're following that I've seen so far.

If you're not someone who uses twitter a lot you may ask, "why do I need to look at who I'm following? Shouldn't I know these people?" The answer is, yes, you SHOULD know these people, but following people on Twitter is often a lot like exchanging business cards at a mixer. You think you understand who that person is, and you want to return the favor because they gave you their card, but now they have direct access to you.

I'm mainly concerned with people who don't follow me back -- I follow people to have a conversation, or at least to have some mutual exchange of ideas. But there are accounts like the @MarsPhoenix or @stephenfry whom I 'm interested in, but I don't honestly expect them to be interested in me -- I don't want to use a tool that just automatically unfollows everyone who isn't following me, but I need a way to categorize the activity of the people I'm following.

The Twit Cleaner has three main categories which they then break down into subsections. It takes a few minutes to run, and they actually send you a message when it's done rather than waiting on your browser like I assume if you're one of those twitterers following 50,000 people that it would take much more than a few minutes. But the report you get back is pretty interesting.

For completeness, here's the list I got back when I ran my report (knowing they're Aussies explains the terms and spelling).

Dodgy Behaviour
  • Try To Sell You Crap
    Uses common spam phrases

  • Nothing but Links
    Posts nothing but links

  • Tweeting the same links all the time
    Duplicates the same link more than 25% of the time

  • Tweeting Identical Tweets All The Time
    Posts the same tweet too many times

  • Other Dodgy Behaviour, Now Absent
    Any dodgy behaviour, plus haven't posted in ages

No Activity in Over a Month
  • No Activity In Over A Month
    No tweets in a very long time

Accounts that Ignore You
  • Not Active Yet (Fewer Than 10 Tweets)
    Fewer than 10 tweets

  • Don't Interact With Anyone
    Never interacts with any of their followers

  • Hardly Follow Anyone
    People that follow back less than 10% of the people who follow them

  • Not Following You
    Have no followers at all

The page made it pretty easy to find out what accounts I wanted to toss immediately, and then take my time as I get through less and less critical categories. It also offers a tool to let you unfollow everyone on the list, with the option to exclude the accounts you want to keep (like the Mars rover and Sir Stephen Fry for example).

I did a quick paranoia test on myself by running the Twit Cleaner from the Conquent account (which is just a company placeholder and just follows @bissell) and I was happy to see that my daily Twitter account didn't show up in any of the garbage categories.

But, at the end of the day, while the automatic filters are getting better, I still think there's nothing like a little human oversight on these sorts of things...ID#comments
Sat, 30 Jan 2010 09:28:02 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Perfect Secretary's pitch for @Adbroad (and the Youtube API) is in the running for a Shorty Award in #advertising. It's a community effort, getting a Shorty Award, and the very lovely, somewhat provocative, Perfect Sectretary has added her own short video pitch for @Adbroad.

Click to view

It made great sense to post it to the website. I really like the work Conquent did building the site so naturally we wanted to make it a little kitschier than a simple "here's my YouTube video". Now, we could have mastered a second copy of the video and uploaded it to the server, but keeping it all on YouTube lets @PerfectSec keep track of how many people watch the video whether it's on YouTube or and we don't have to worry about peak loads or any of the other headaches hosting your own streaming video causes.

So the team dug in and found out that Youtube actually has an API (Application Programming Interface). Turns out you can control just about everything that happens in a YouTube video with JavaScript.

All we really needed to do was dress up the video a little -- it's still YouTube, but we put a TV over the top of it. The problem with that is that the image of the TV covers up all the controls for Youtube, which means you couldn't play or pause the damn thing.

With a little magic from the YouTube API, we were able to create controls so all you have to do is click on the video to toggle play and pause (just like a regular YouTube video) and the real cool factor is that at the end of the video, we can swap out the video and put in a screen to direct people to go vote.

Pretty damn cool...ID#comments
Fri, 29 Jan 2010 08:40:28 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Emotions of Text one of the most interesting developments of the 21st Century is how many people communicate via text. I don't mean just text messaging (which Purnima referred to as the return to the telegraph message), I mean things like, well, this text.

Blogs, status updates, notes on Facebook walls... There's a lot of typing going on, and a lot of amateur writers flexing their meta-carpals all over the Internet.

The problem is that we just don't quite get the emotional nuance in text that we do face to face. Part of that is the lack of real-time interaction. If I post something to you and it takes hours for you to get back to me, I might start forming opinions about your thoughts about my message. I can't see if I offended you and quickly correct my meaning -- and if I did, that offense can fester and your reply can be equally offensive, then we get a good old fashioned flame war going on.

People often use smileys and other emoticons to try to add that emotional nuance. I hate emoticons, and I generally refuse to use them. They're the equivalent of Cindi-with-an-I dotting that "i" with a heart. Or like the comedian who tells a joke and then says, "Get it? Get it? It was the rabbi!" I prefer the satisfaction of getting the joke on my own.

I like to think of myself as a skilled enough writer that I can imbue some level of emotional certainty into my writing, but let's be honest -- if I use phrases like "imbue emotional certainty" I'm going to come off as a pompous Ivory Tower asshole more often than not, which is just as bad as coming off as some twittering tween with smileys.

It was interesting to see the emotional content in response to my blog yesterday (The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam). It was one of my general examinations of how social media is changing, but it got a lot more response than normal. Sure, I used the word "scandal" but I meant it as a tongue and cheek commentary because how can you really have "scandal" with something as unstructured, and honestly unimportant, as a fan-based award for who's the best Twitterer in a range of categories?

If you read the comments, you'll see there are a lot of pretty strong opinions in there. And despite my premise that we should be able to tell the intended mood of the author, I honestly can't say how many of these folks are genuinely pissed. I know I wasn't, but I think @jonacoca thought I was pissed at him for trying to help out @iwearyourshirt (I think he even called me a "hater" on Twitter...)

Maybe I should have used a few emoticons...
Thu, 28 Jan 2010 13:31:31 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam the quest for winning the not-really-so-coveted "Shorty Award", our favorite fictional ad man, @FrankAdMan, found himself losing to a T-Shirt. No big deal, after all, Frank, himself, is fictional, so why shouldn't he be beaten by a T-Shirt?

But then he came across a 16 year old who's entire Twitter stream seemed to consist of "@twittername Do you want to be the best person ever? Vote for@iwearyourshirt to win a shorty" and Frank found himself thinking about fish and Denmark...

My first impression was that someone wrote a script that worked the way Twitter whores spam people (see my blog "Twitter Followers Don't Matter, ask the porn sites"). But I was a little curious why all the postings came from "Echofone" which is a legitimate Twitter client. I figured he could have spoofed the name to make it look more legit, but why not do "from web" at the point?

Then I got a message from the spammy account. @jonacoca describes himself as "I'm a fun, Energetic, and intelligent sixteen year old who loves Social Media, sports, and the business world!" and he assures me he is not a bot.

I did some quick research and he posted very similar messages about 125 times. Not as much as a bot would probably do, but way more than a 40 year old man would do. The behavior of 16 year old boys often seems unlikely to their older and slower counterparts, but my guess is that he's copying and pasting and soliciting strangers -- which isn't much different than sending a 16 year old down to the mall to hand out fliers (which I did when I was 16-ish).

Except this is the Social Media frontier and while it's still the unruly frontier with sex, profanity, and a sense of "whatever I can get away with is okay," there are some things we consider improper. One of which is soliciting strangers without their permission, consent or warning.

I don't know what the Shorty's are going to do with this situation -- a little forensics could probably toss out all the votes that were solicited this way, but part of the problem is that this IS the frontier. The fact that there aren't any hard cast rules of engagement makes it harder to separate aggressive campaigning from improper, ne, disqualifying tactics.

But I gotta love the silliness of it all in the midst of the moral quandary...

Clarification on January 28
My intent with this blog posting was to cover the issue of what constitutes spam, but the discussion below has evolved into a discussion about what makes a good Shorty submission. Now, the Shorty Awards has a fairly complex set of rules, and they did their initial audit of the votes to see how they comply with these rules.

Lee Semel (@semel) a co-founder of the Shorty Awards, posted this today:
@rafael_jornal can explain further over info[at] email, but 'because...' votes, repeats and retweets weighted less

Which might help to explain how FrankAdMan with 346 votes is currently in first place while iwearyourshirt is in 6th with 361 votes. I'm pretty sure that iwearyourshirt wasn't docked heavily by jonacoca's enthusiasm, as the number of votes that iwearyourshirt got from the campaign was (at his estimate) very limited.

Food for thought, though...
Wed, 27 Jan 2010 07:52:07 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Google Analytics, the cloud and missing numbers #fail ran the backend for a sweepstakes project for ABC/Lost this month -- it was one of those projects you simultaneously love and dread because a company like ABC/Disney can push a LOT of people to the microsite all at once. So, we set up the site on Rackspace's cloud (you can read the details about setting up the project here) and it all worked great.

As a bit of an experiment, we hooked up Google Analytics to the site to track visitors. Now, keep in mind, server stats are always a little tricky, what with bots and other automatic processes hitting your site all the time, but for something as tightly controlled as this sweepstakes site, this was a pretty good test of the technology.

And Google failed.

This conclusion wasn't from an arduous comparison of server logs and weighting what might be a real visit and what might be a bot -- that would be one of those vague, subjective conversations. The fact is that Google reported fewer page views than registrations -- which is impossible as a visitor would have to look at two pages minimum to register. One page to answer the questions, and the thank you page saying "You got the right!"

Google Analytics is run on the client browser with JavaScript; I know visitors had to have JavaScript turned on to register for the sweepstakes because they couldn't have gotten into the site from ABC without JavaScript turned on. So, either Google is overwhelmed and not picking up the visits as we flood the server, or people are blocking Google's scripts.

No matter what the reason, that kind of discrepancy can't be ignored. We usually create special tracking scripts (on the server side) to filter out all the noise in the server logs, which is kind of the thought behind Google Analytics. But our tests so far show that a client side, JavaScript driven tracker, even by the geniuses at Google, just doesn't work...

Tue, 26 Jan 2010 08:19:38 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Helen Klein Ross & Michael Bissell Interview at Adweek's Social Media Strategies Conference sound track gets off a little from the video, but it's a nice little interview with me and Helen KleinRoss when we spoke at the Adweek Social Media Strategies Conference in September of '09.

The topic is how we managed to tweet in character for Roger Sterling and Betty Draper

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Internet is the New 60's got into an online conversation today with @Gennefer on the topic that the 60's social movement makes a great metaphor for the way we use the Internet today. It's not just the easy access to sex, drugs and illegal music, but also the way social networks are creating awareness of social issues and promoting art and culture outside the establishment.

As we tossed our 140 character comments back and forth, it occurred to me that the it's not the Internet that needs a metaphor, but the way communication and information changes society.

There have been a few really great communications revolutions that have been followed by huge sociological shifts. Sea travel, which brought not only goods from far away, but new ways of thinking and doing things (including the recipe for gunpowder) is often overlooked as a communications revolution, but it was the knowledge traders brought back that started the Renaissance much more than the goods themselves.

Not overlooked is movable type -- without the printing press to get his message out, Martin Luther would have just been another priest strung up to a wall somewhere and the Catholic Church would still be the only church for Christians, and a hugely corrupt power, at that.

We still romanticize the Pony Express, but it was really the telegraph that cemented so much of the North American continent as a future world power. And, of course, the telegraph was quickly followed by radio and then television rapidly making the world smaller, creating a more homogeneous culture with national advertising and even changing the way we talk by smoothing out regional accents and dialects.

What really made the 60's such a watershed time was a huge population of people all about the same age spawned from a post-war baby boom. Ironically, these kids were the first to be raised by TV and shared a lot of the same ideas and ideals and culture not from their families but from TV and the toys and commercial products they grew up with.

And they could find each other more easily than ever before. TV news was maturing and spreading the word about things like Woodstock or marches in Washington. It's not just that they could get their message out more easily (this was the dawn of self-publishing with cheap mimeographs and copiers coming on the scene), it's that they all spoke the same message and learned that message faster than their elders.

All of which is true with the Internet. The Internet is quickly helping to homogenize culture on a global scale, although it's not as if the "Internet" is a single medium -- television, movies, blogs, advertising, casual interactions online, and the fact we all use the same basic stuff every day give us common ground to start a conversation. And all these little interactions take us a step closer to a global culture, which is definitely one of the biggest revolutions we've seen.

Just as the stuffed shirts in the 60s tried to mimic or co-opt the "youth culture" stuffed shirts (and not so stuffed) are trying to do the same today. It's too big even with our multi-national global companies supplying so much of this revolutionary culture, it's not the things or even the individuals driving this revolution, it's just the unchecked speed of communication.ID#comments
Sun, 24 Jan 2010 19:41:02 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Cougars from New Zealand (and I don't mean big cats) to me that as the world gets smaller, what we find controversial gets less relevant. Take this video for example (posted by @Ryan_Drumwright on his Facebook page). The comment on the video says:
"The ad from air New Zealand, to advertise their grabaseat deals, that had to be banned from the air due to people's complaints about the use of the term cougar.... "

Naturally, I found the thing amusing, as it was intended. Of course, I like women of that age, but then I'm not a Cub -- yeah, they had to come up with a name for the young men that Cougars apparently prey on. Not that I've actually heard of a man in his 20s complaining that he got picked up by a woman who only had sex on her mind, other than maybe she wasn't the hot 20-something he was hoping to take home that night...

Anyhow, I figured the office would enjoy the clip, so I pulled it up on the big screen in the front room and, surprise, no offense, but there was one question: "What's a P Addict?"

Apparently it's a Kiwi term for a meth addict, which is interesting because people are more upset about the use of the word Cougar than they are about using "P Addicts" to "cull their numbers." I mean, outrage is warranted for an ad that trivializes a debilitating addiction, but not because older, single women, are interested in casual encounters with younger, also single, adult men.

But, with the Internet, anything can become controversy really fast, and be forgotten equally fast.

Also in tonight's news, Haiti, economic crisis in the US continues, I need to scoop the cat box and a whole bunch of stuff more important than women who want to have sex.ID#comments
Thu, 21 Jan 2010 12:11:23 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Adding facts together, or why you can't charge your cell phone from wifi this random bit of tech news from Nabil Maynard (@Nadreck) from the twitter stream the other day... The article was about a device that can recharge your cellphone by converting ambient wi-fi radio frequencies into electricity. (RCA's Airenergy charger converts WiFi energy to electricity)

Before getting into the physics of this, I had one of those cynical "That can't be right" moments. My first thought was that there should be a lot of OTHER ambient radio frequency bouncing around that should be a lot stronger than wi-fi. I mean, why wi-fi? Other than saying "why, oh why, wi-fi?" is so much fun...

Then the math kicks in (thanks to the comments in the article). The output from a wireless router is around 100 milliwatts, or .01 watts -- it would take about 250 hours to charge a device using that kind of output. Now, the idea is that the device collects and stores a charge in its own battery all the time, so you can get a quick hit, but the reality is you'd still have to wait a week to get that charge back on this device...

My point in posting this here is basic critical thinking. Well, I say basic, but it's not that basic when it's so rarely used. The article in question didn't do the extra math or try to prove or disprove the idea that this device works, it took readers to do the math and disprove it, and very few of those readers at that. Most people just said, coool...

While one school of thought says "just post the facts" we need people to report more than the facts they were given. Do a little research and add a little more to the world than just forwarding stuff along and maybe the world will be a slightly better place...

Mon, 18 Jan 2010 12:44:08 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Social Media and the Destruction of the World're always looking for patterns in things -- the rise and fall of the markets, the increase in global temperatures, what color will be the new black this season, whether that cute girl always takes the 7:32 bus... We're pattern obsessed to the point that it gets us in trouble with games of chance (our brains are trying to figure out when that 777 will come up on the slot machine, so we keep spending).

The reason for this obsession with patterns is simple biology -- if you can't figure out what berries are good for you and which will kill you, you're dead, and your genes don't move on to the next generation. If you can track more complicated patterns, like the seasons and what plants you can grow, or what animals you can herd, you can build the kind of civilization that supports over six billion people.

So patterns are naturally really important to us. We judge intelligence on the use of patterns -- SETI is looking for repetitious patterns in the radio noise of space under the assumption that if an intelligent species was going to try to contact us, they'd use mathematical progressions, or at least a steady beat.

I'd like to argue that visible patterns are getting harder to find as the Internet evolves. The way we interact with each other and the incomprehensible amount of information flying around is changing civilization in ways we don't understand. It's not just the random noise drowning out intelligent discourse, it's that the random noise is becoming intelligent discourse.

I have always been a generalist, and often answer questions correctly without knowing how I know the answer. I have a pretty good foundation in rational thought (having been called a Saganist because I subscribe to the philosophies of Carl Sagan), so I'm pretty good at filtering the random noise, rating it, and learning from it. But most of my peers are linear thinkers and base their answers on education and experience that is becoming less relevant.

Just as toddlers are able to pick up a mouse and keyboard and surf the Internet, I'm seeing a generation that doesn't find the idea of random information disturbing, and I'm seeing an older generation that is perplexed by it.

We are seeing the dark side of this Information Revolution -- as one school of thought (the search for ordered patterns in the world) is augmented by another (the acceptance of randomness and chaos), we see information based crises like the mortgage crisis where the patterns went from manageable to complex to uncontrollable to disaster.

I think we're also just starting to see the tip of the obsolesce of a lot of professions based in the information world. I'm talking the top of our economy -- lawyers, bankers, managers and even politicians who not only can't keep up with the rate of change, but whose livelihood was based on being one step ahead by watching patterns that no longer exist.

So, maybe the lawyers are the first with their backs against the wall now that the revolution is here.
Fri, 15 Jan 2010 09:21:09 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Rabid Fans vs Passive Viewers -- The Coco vs Leno saga's been a lot of buzz around who's going to get the Tonight Show, and while I don't even watch late night TV, I found a concept on one of Time's Blogs interesting. They say that one of the reasons the debate exists is because Conan O'Brien's fan base is younger, online, and tweeting like crazy, whereas Leno's fans are older, and far less rabid.

Obviously, how we place value on a vocal minority has a lot more social implications than just who gets the Tonight show. And for this posting I'm going leave aside the rabid right, and the wacky left in politics -- but keep the 2008 election in mind with Obama in the Conan role and McCain in the Leno...

What we're seeing is the evolution of fandom: you don't have to wait for the Neilsen's to tabulate numbers, and even when you do, they're often way out of whack from the buzz being generated online, keeping in mind that that buzz might be controlled by a handful of rabid fans and that the actual audience may have a very different opinion.

But the question that still remains in my mind is if that vocal minority is a better target for advertisers than the lackadaisical "I'll watch what's on" crowd -- active fans can be active consumers, but passive viewers may be better targets for traditional advertising.

We probably won't know how traditional broadcast advertising fits with mobilized social media fans until TV as we know it goes away entirely -- which judging by this battle, may be happening really soon.
Thu, 14 Jan 2010 10:09:26 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
How to tell someone to retweet (without using up your 140 characters) is like a giant gossip engine, and gossip can be a good thing when you want everyone to learn about something really juicy. The problem is explaining in 140 characters why someone should pass along a message.

Say I post a comment like this:

I nominate @adbroad for a Shorty Award in #advertising because she knows how to blend old and new school media

Because it's a contest, the posting has to be formatted a certain way, and even though there is room to add "Please Retweet" to the end of the posting, you don't really have enough room to explain WHY you want them to retweet.

So, we came up with a clever way to ask people to tweet something without having to give them all the text. First, you create a link to twitter that automatically fills in someone's status. You construct a status link like this:

The trick is you have to escape URL, which means converting some characters to wacky %XX codes. If you're web savvy you'll know what I'm talking about (like changing the # to a %23), if you're not... maybe I'll get one of the guys to write a script to do this automatically...

So once you you escape your status update it reads like this:

Now you shorten the URL with a tinyurl generator (see my blog about tinyurls). So that big long link becomes

Which means you can now write a more detailed message like:

Help @Adbroad win the Shorty Award in #advertising by posting your vote for her on Twitter:

That still leaves room for a RT @somehandle AND your whole, unedited message can still get posted.

I know, it's a little convoluted, and the reasons for embedding the longer message in a status link vary, but it seemed like a cool idea to me. If it catches on, I want a gold star.

Thu, 7 Jan 2010 13:34:48 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
You can't buy social media watching stats for the LOST project, I noticed a huge spike in registrations. As we did our research, it seems to have been from a twitter posting by @Agent_M, the Editor of He has around 1.4 million followers, so you have to figure a lot of people see his postings even when you take into account the transitory nature of Twitter postings.

In a moment of blatant self-promotion, I posted "Looks like @Agent_M tweeted the LOST Sweepstakes and created a traffic surge to the microsite. I love it when Social Media works." CarriBugbee responded "That's surprising to hear from a social media curmudgeon" which got me into a little online discussion with her about the fact that I'm NOT a Social Media curmudgeon, I'm a sales curmudgeon.

I think what's happening with communication tools is amazing, but it's not a product, and it's not something you can create out of nothing. Words like "authenticity" are tossed about by inauthentic speakers (see my blog about wayward words with baggage). Social Media "experts" talk about being able to manipulate people's passions to commercial ends -- and that may be true some of the time, but you have to start and end with something that people love.

The reason Agent_M has 1.4 million followers is because he's got an inside line on comic books and movies -- it's a broad audience, and it's something he does every day, not just a part time promotional gig. When he mentioned LOST, there was a core group of people who were right in the sweet spot for our promotion. It was relevant, but more importantly, it was spontaneous and something that the guy felt was relevant. We didn't buy his time, he just passed along a message he thought people would like.

And, even aside from the spike from this one, popular, twitterer, it's the fact that the fans of LOST were excited to have a chance to win something relevant to the show they love.

Bottom line -- organic traffic is honest traffic, and honest traffic can't be bought.ID#comments
Wed, 6 Jan 2010 10:36:13 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
A book unopened is but a block of paper'm a big believer in open communication and information. You can't make informed decisions, learn new things and grow if you don't have easy access to facts, and it's amazing to me how often we don't have access to facts. Political censorship actively clouds what we can learn -- and I don't just mean government politics; corporate, scholarly, and individual politics shape a lot of what we know.

But information that disappears into bowels of academia also puts a huge hole in what's been known and can be learned. The classic example is the Roman Library of Alexandria in Egypt. We know some of what was in that library before it burned, things like the circumference of the Earth and its location in the solar system. Things that hundreds of years later the Church was burning people for heresy... knowledge that we think of as part of the modern world but was very much a part of the ancient world.

But we don't know what was lost. There were too few copies of the books that were stored in Alexandria. There were no backups, no copies stored at some other library -- that was it. And when it burned, that was that, it was gone.

Granted, much of the written word of the 20th century is crap, and a lot more of the 21st century's writings are turning out the same way. But this is where search comes in. At the moment the king of search is Google, but there are lots of ways to find what you want to learn about, if it's digitized.

The problem is that most of our knowledge isn't searchable -- it's on paper in books. Books are a great archival resource, but as the old Chinese proverb goes, "A book unopened is but a block of paper." A book that's been scanned, indexed and placed online, on the other hand, is a searchable resource, which means even if you know nothing of some obscure work, you may find it and get a Eureka moment without having to fly to Stanford University and toil in the stacks.

So, Google's initiative to scan millions of books and put them online is core to my philosophy that knowledge should be easily available. I was troubled by the news that they'll end up holding de facto copyright on some books because, in my opinion, copyright ties up knowledge. But, on watching the PBS News Hour segment (embedded below), it seems that the only books in question are books that actually are copyrighted but where the copyright holder is difficult to locate.

In one sense, this props up what I feel is the biggest impediment to the free distribution of knowledge -- extended copyright laws. In another sense, this brings millions of books into the light of day (or the glow of monitors) that may otherwise be sitting on a stack in one or two libraries.

Think of it like that rare plant in the jungle that unlocks the cure for cancer. I don't honestly think there is a single book out there with all the answers, but if what we're doing is making knowledge available, albeit within the framework of existing copyright restrictions, then maybe that cure for cancer is one step closer.

Thu, 31 Dec 2009 08:21:27 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Building the LOST: The Final Season Sweepstakes were contracted to build a sweepstakes site for Disney/ABC for the final season of the TV show LOST (or as they put it LOST: The Final Season, which sounds more ominous). It was a pretty straightforward database project, with two major wrinkles.

First off, they needed it in a week. I was thinking two weeks when we agreed to do it, but when you consider we had Christmas right in the middle of the project, we pretty much had to get it done in a week.

Purnima did a great job of creating custom graphics for the site based on the imagery we were provided, and Eric got the programming and server set up done in short order. Even the HTML came together, which is remarkable when you consider how short-handed we are in that department at the moment.

But the real thing that had me worried about this project is that this is LOST; this is a show with a fan base that put fanatical back in the word "fan". There are over a million fans on the LOST Facebook page which could pummel a web application. Then there's the fact ABC will be advertising the sweepstakes on TV, which can get thousands of people to hit the site at the same moment.

Fortunately Conquent has faced this before and we were able to get a site set up on Rackspace's cloud -- we looked at Amazon and Google (even considered Microsoft's), but what made Rackspace work for me was that I had a couple business cards from meeting tech and sales guys in Vegas at the CLIO awards. Yep, I made the business decision from hanging out in the cabanas by the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas.

It's not that they had plied me with booze and wifi, it's that I was able to pick up the phone and talk to someone who was able to help my team set up the right solution. No matter how hard you try, you just can't automate real customer service. Even with over a decade of doing exactly these kinds of projects, cloud computing is new, and I honestly didn't know enough about how the technology works to understand how the pricing works or how we might get in trouble with one package versus another.

We're in Day 2 of the sweepstakes as I write this, and it's running so smoothly it's almost disturbing. I mean, I don't want to break the site, but I'd like to see the thing strain a little. But so far, it's just another ho-hum miracle.

Here's a link to the sweepstakes site, which probably will be pulled down a week before the February 2nd season premiere:
Tue, 29 Dec 2009 12:36:03 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Holiday SPAM (or the lack thereof) social patterns are echoed in the Internet in strange ways. For example, my joke website gets a lot more traffic on Fridays than other days (I guess there's lot more goofing off Friday afternoon).

But a particularly interesting echo is that there's less SPAM on holiday weekends than normal. The reason? People are more likely to shut down their computers for a long weekend than for a normal weekend.

You see, most SPAM comes from individual personal computers that have a virus. Not a crippling virus, just one that quietly sends out emails about drug offers, fake luxury products, and letters from Nigerian princes. They go out at a steady pace, not too much to raise an alarm or slow your machine down too much, but still hundreds every hour.

The fact that we see a noticeable drop in SPAM over Christmas shows just how many computers are working for someone other than their owners. These computers aren't just sending SPAM -- they also infect other computers, steal personal information from servers, and gang together to take down websites in extortion rackets.

This is where I'm supposed to put the obligatory virus software pitch, but I have this sneaking suspicion that even if everyone installed all their updates and ran all the virus/spyware programs we'd still have this stuff slipping through. Most of this stuff comes from smart, underemployed Russians and Chinese who have far more time to figure out how to hijack your computer than you have time to block them.

No matter what, it's nice to have a holiday from Spam...
Sun, 27 Dec 2009 11:54:52 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Archiving Twitter is aptly named what with people just twittering about nothing. Although sometimes there's a conversation you want to keep track of. The problem is that with so much idle chatter on Twitter, you can't find that conversation or event after a couple weeks.

The reason is the simple fact that Twitter can only store so much data for so long, and even if they do keep the data, it gets so voluminous that real-time searches are next to impossible.

Conquent has created a tool to help out with this -- we can grab and store, ahem, "tweets" for future posterity. Most recently we did this for @FrankAdman's #Twittertini Christmas party, set in the mid 1960s in San Francisco. You can see the archive by visiting

We've used the same concept to create the dynamic soccer ball at the United Nations Foundation's Malaria awareness website at

With this, we also pull Facebook at little videos from

At the end of the day, I feel that if you want to keep track of your words, or what people are saying about you, you gotta grab 'em and hold them tight. Get them someplace where you know you can keep them safe so that if Twitter goes away, you can still reference that strange little idea that came from the stream of consciousness we call the Internet.
ID#comments Tue, 22 Dec 2009 10:15:38 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator Too Many Toolbars a web development company we're always dealing with the fact that no one's machine is exactly the same. Not just the fact that displays go from 640x480 through 1600xwhatever, but then people install toolbars that take up space.

Here's an extreme example:

I like to believe that this doesn't really happen, but I gotta say, I've had plenty of clients tell me "Hey! I can't see the content without scrolling" and it turns out they're running low-res with a BUNCH of toolbars...ID#comments
Thu, 17 Dec 2009 13:01:08 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Random Censorship with Google Adwords in the dawn of time (1998) I created a little website called It started because it was fashionable at the time to forward jokes to everyone in your address book -- I created a folder in Outlook called "Humor" and dragged them in there as I got them.

One day I looked and noticed I had a couple thousand jokes in that email folder. Yeah, a couple thousand... I wanted to learn about database programming on the web, so I dumped the folder to a file, created a little database to categorize and rate them, and, here it is, almost 12 years later and it's still up and running.

I still use the site for the same purpose -- a place to learn about new technologies. I rarely censor anything, just rate it X if I think it's really offensive, although I do have a tendency to exclude things that I just don't think count as jokes (racial jokes usually fall into this category).

Because of this, I get something like 750 unique visitors and 4,000 page views a day mainly from search engine traffic. Pretty much type in anything into Google and is going to be somewhere in the results -- maybe on page 50, but somewhere. And a lot of joke searches (like haunaka jokes) come up on the top of the list.

I figured I should try out Google's Adsense -- that's the "Ads by Google" thing you see all over the web. Not being in it for the money, I made a subtle link at the bottom of the page and get a whopping 25 cents or so a day off the thing.

But it's been interesting seeing how the Google words work -- the JavaScript looks at the content on the page and then decides what adwords to show. So, if I've got a joke about Christmas, you get things like "Work Christmas Party" or "Christmas Cookie."

Now, about the censorship -- and bear in mind, I'm not censoring this blog, so be prepared for naughty words.

From time to time I look at a joke and there's no Google ad. At first I thought I had done something wrong, but then I realized it was usually on jokes with the word "fucking." What's odd is that it's not consistent; sometimes "fuck" is okay, sometimes it needs "fuck" AND "fucking" to not get an ad. Certainly the joke about the little boy on the nude beach (with the phrase "little nude boy") got caught as something Google didn't want to be associated with (it's dirty, but not pedophilia).

Some dirty jokes seem to be just fine, and the very disturbing picture of Bin Laden and Bush having sex just gets links for "Funny Pics" and "Freelance Editor," which makes me wonder what Google's programmers think a Freelance Editor does with their time...

I don't know what it all means, other than Google's policy of non-censorship doesn't apply to their ads, which is probably fine. I don't necessarily want my clients' ads showing up on a porn site, but I wish I really understood the cut-off for what's too dirty and what's just dirty enough.

Come to think of it, I'd like to learn that rule for conversation, too, but so far my own censorship isn't working out to well...
Tue, 15 Dec 2009 11:07:44 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Accessibility and Shopping Online Christmas you hear about how much more people are buying online -- it's not just because it's easier than fighting the malls and the traffic only to find you couldn't get what you wanted. As our population ages it's becoming the ONLY option for shopping -- as the Boomers get older, there are more people with vision problems, mobility issues, and a whole slew of disabilities that make it nearly impossible for these folks to shop on their own, and even worse during the Christmas rush.

The problem is that most of the web isn't accessible for people with disabilities. A lot of our clients want shiny objects, with more and more JavaScript and Flash and cool new things that don't work at all for people with screen readers.

About a year ago, I was approached by Michael Dorety who has been working for a long time addressing these issues. He's no stranger to complicated technical projects having built hardware platforms for the deaf, worked with Microsoft and their vendors to create accessibility tools that actually work, and a lot of other projects that boggle the mind.

But, creating an easy way to let shoppers find products in an accessible environment turned out to be a lot tougher than he had thought. For starters, there's the whole set of 508 Accessibility regulations -- you know it's going to be complicated pretty much any time you reference a body of Federal law, and when mix in a bunch of technology... well let's just say it isn't easy making things easy.

Then, add the fact that just because you're 508 compliant doesn't mean you're actually "screen reader friendly" -- you can follow all the rules and still have a confusing site that's just plain frustrating for someone who can't see all the little clues you think are so obvious.

It's been a bumpy road, but we all came together and got the site up and running at The site lets visitors search for products in a quick, easy to use format -- it's not perfect as the retailers still take your money, and their sites aren't necessarily up to snuff, but we can lead folks to the products they're looking for and ease the frustration.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens over the next few months as the site starts to get some attention. We've been very careful to include a lot of beta testers with real-world tools, but this is a big, tricky world out there with different people -- so, if you get a chance, check out and let me know what you think.
Tue, 1 Dec 2009 10:17:48 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Twisted path to customer service was looking at the logs for my Blog on Conquent yesterday and I found that my posting We've got an app for that, it's called the web was getting traffic from Microsoft's search engine (called Bing this week). I checked it out, and it turns out it's the third listing when you search on the phrase "Yeah, we've got an app for that" or the fourth when you type in "We've got an app for that."

It's particularly amusing when you consider A) I really hate Apple’s campaign, and B) I’m not a big believer in SEO, yet here I am getting traffic to my blog under their catchy advertising phrase.

Being a good self-promoter, I quickly posted it to my various status updates on the social media sites. I use a service called which lets me post it to a dozen sites all at once. Here's what I posted:
Fun with Search Engine Optimization. Conquent's #3 on Bing with "yeah, we've got an app for that"

The trouble is that different sites interpret text differently. For example Twitter takes @whatever and turns it into a link to and rewrites hashtags to take you to search results for the tag (a hashtag is just a keyword with a # symbol in front of it, so if you want to watch what people are saying about tonight's episode of Mad Men, you would search on #madmen -- provided people are using that tag, that is).

About an hour after I posted it, I got a cryptic email from a business associate who said, "same to you!" and a bunch of Japanese characters. I was worried that something went horribly wrong and that my url was taking him to the wrong place, but it turned out that LinkedIn is now using hashtags like Twitter does -- only #3 took him to some page with a Japanese discussion.

I found this amusing so I posted a comment to Twitter and ended up with a quick exchange with Taylor, a Conquent Alum who now works for LinkedIn:
bissell: Using one tool to update all Social Media gets trickier: LinkedIn now has a local version of hashtags in their status updates

episod @bissell pointing to one of the apps I'm product manager for even, Company Buzz. ;)

bissell: @episod FYI When I mentioned being #3 on bing, LinkedIn made it a link to some Japanese page. Twitter didn't bother making it clickable

episod @bissell I'll suggest we link on hashtags >1 ch

This dull exchange is one of the most fascinating aspects of how we communicate today. Let's go through that process again:

  • I review random traffic to my blog on Conquent

  • I learn a random fact about Conquent on

  • I post a random comment to the universe

  • I get a cryptic response

  • I learn something new about LinkedIn

  • I randomly share that new knowledge on Twitter

  • LinkedIn ends up making a change based on this convoluted path

All in about an hour.

With our almost telepathic level of communication, we can learn important information about our own products or services, even when the topic has nothing to do with us. Forget customer comment cards, it's unrelated tidbits like these that gives us the real human experience -- if you're paying attention that is.ID#comments
Sun, 8 Nov 2009 09:30:41 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Flash: Shiny objects blinding your audience, this is another one of those geeky rants based on years of ranting about this very topic and still not believing people don't agree with my vast understanding of how the world works.

Let me say for the record, I think Flash is a great plug-in. Lighter than Java applets, more secure than anything Microsoft tried to do, and so easy to install it ended up on over 95% of desktop computers. The development tools make it really easy to do cool animation and program logic, and I've seen some amazing stuff done using Flash.

But don't build your whole website around it.

The biggest problem I have with an entire site being built in Flash is that you can't bookmark pages, and in this age of link sharing through social media, that can be a site killer. ("Okay, go to, click on the news link, look for the recent videos link, and scroll down to the one posted three months ago, then click..." as opposed to "go to")

But this is an implementation issue, like so many problems I have with Flash driven websites. Flash sites are more likely to have that annoying intro, so annoying that it's become standard to put "Skip Intro" on the home page -- why, oh dear lord, why, would you make the FIRST thing someone sees something that you KNOW they are going to want to skip? Get me to the meat right off the bat, and tease me with your dancing robots after I'm hooked.

This goes for the long, complex transitions from one screen to another. If I have to watch a "Loading......" animation just to click on your Contact Us page, precious moments are slipping away where I might give up, get a phone call from your competitor, or decide I have to go to the bathroom.

The Web is an amazing tool for distributing information. Don't let the shiny objects blind your audience.
Thu, 5 Nov 2009 09:38:12 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Twollow and other gold rush scripts[Appologies in advance -- this is just a poorly structured rant after spending time playing with code. One of the reasons I hate programming is that it just makes me cranky.]

I wanted to test a theory about autofollowing on Twitter, so I went to Google to find a script or a service that would follow people for my account automatically based on keywords and I was amazed at not only the fact most of the charged for the service, but how much they charged.

Twollow charges $15 a month to follow people based on 5 keywords. Five. You want 10? It'll cost you 20 bucks a month.

I find this shocking because the Twitter API is free and I wrote an auto follow script of my own in about an hour. Granted, I bill my time at well over 20 bucks a month, but it wouldn't take long for me to get ten customers to pay me 20 bucks each to cover my time.

I call it a gold rush because it's still new and clients don't know that there are easy ways to incorporate this kind of stuff into their own web tools -- I'm not saying that dropping 40 bucks for a couple months isn't worth it; it's certainly cheaper than home rolling your own script, but this is the kind of stuff that the geeks are usually giving away for free, which maybe I'll do...

But at the end of the day, it always bugs me when I see short sighted business models (Twollow has an annual plan, but who's to say Twitter won't change their API in the next 12 months?) taking advantage of businesses who aren't planning ahead, have no strategy and are just rushing into the hills hoping to strike some gold.
Wed, 14 Oct 2009 07:44:22 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
GPS in a Laptop computer found myself on a random blog on which was questioning if there is an actual use that justifies GPS in notebooks. There seems to be an idea that GPS is only used in those consoles in your dashboard and the only time you would want to know where you are is if you're in a car.

I use Google Maps on my Windows Mobile phone all the time to find businesses nearby. That "nearby" bit is important because when I'm traveling I often have no idea where I am (the cab driver knows where the hotel is, I don't have to).

I usually work around the lack of GPS in my laptop by typing in the name of the hotel or the office that I'm at, and Google finds it. But there are the times I don't have enough info to really figure out where I am, right now, on Google, and asking someone "Where am I?" doesn't exactly give that executive air of confidence I like to exude at business meetings.

Not only that, but if you read my blog Socializing is more than Social Media you'll know that I believe real-world connections are important, and social media is still too random -- if you're in the coffee shop and want to connect with your, ahem, Tweeple, a GPS tool in your laptop can make it easier to find them and announce your location.

So, having GPS on my laptop would give me a lot more geographically relevant info with a better interface than my phone -- and damn straight that's an actual use that justifies GPS in a notebook.ID#comments
Sat, 10 Oct 2009 08:26:25 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Thinking outside the box... There was a box? now and then I hear the phrase "think outside the box." You'd think it would be worn out and people wouldn't be using the tired cliche, but there it is, just as the box is there. I remember hearing a voice in the back of my head asking, "There was a box?"

Looking over my shoulder at all the companies that deliver easy to understand products or services, I saw a galaxy of boxes. I had to ask myself, "What is are these boxes, and why do we need them?" After all, my job isn't just outside the box, but, to be honest, it's all about building new boxes.

Boxes keep everything from scattering on the floor, whether stuff in your basement, the thoughts in your head or the structure of your company -- and it can be rewarding exploring the compartments of a box, finding relevant ideas or brilliant products. In the structure and order of having things organized, there is the opportunity to do much more than in the chaos of things jumbled and lost.

Boxes are good, but they're only good if you can get things out of them. A box taped shut, on the bottom of a shelf, hidden behind other boxes may be safe, but there's no use for that box until it is opened and the contents are enjoyed and shared.

To me, the phrase, "Think outside the box" is redundant. "Thinking" requires you to be outside the structure, otherwise it's simply being. But, simply being is just as valuable -- once you've thought outside the box, you need to put those thoughts in order if you ever want to find them again.ID#comments
Thu, 8 Oct 2009 18:49:53 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Twitter was designed for Text Messaging find it ironic that people forget that Twitter was originally designed as a way to create groups for text messaging. After all, where did you think that 140 character limit came from? SMS has a 160 limit, and they reserved 20 characters for Twitter to add instructions or labels to the message.

So, rather than texting a whole bunch of your friends individually, you send a text message, then twitter relays it to their phones, and they can decide whether or not to get those text messages.

You send your updates to Twitter by texting to 40404 (in the US). The updates show up online just like a posting from any other Twitter client. This is handy if you have an old phone without a Twitter client or you just don't want to run, log in, and deal with a Twitter client or web on your phone.

The feature is still there, and you can choose to turn it on with a few simple steps:

1) Log into Twitter on the web

2) Click on Settings (just like if you were going to change your profile settings)

3) Click on Devices, add your phone number.

4) Got to notices and you can turn on DMs to your phone.

5) To get updates from individuals texted to you, go to their profile and click that little mobile icon. (This would get really annoying if you turned on updates for everyone you follow if you follow thousands of people).

You'll be given instructions for how to verify your phone number before you start receiving texts from Twitter, but it's pretty simple.

Of course, there are other text message services like Twitpic or Facebook Mobile, both of which I've been known to use, but not many of them actually text YOU when something happens on your account, and that's one way Twitter is different.ID#comments
Wed, 7 Oct 2009 15:25:51 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
It's not the corporations, damnit mentioned on Twitter last night: "social media is probably the key to changing unsustainable corporate practices, corporations should work for us :)" which @kram followed up with "If we could end corporate personhood... everything would change."

There seems to be an idea that floats around that corporations should have some sort of social responsibility built in. While I agree with the idea that we should all have social responsibility, whether as individuals or working together in a corporation, there's a not so subtle problem that I see with this: corporations aren't people, they are a tax entity used to control assets.

Sure, corporations have rights and responsibilities, and they provide a layer of protection for the people who are running (and profiting) from the corporation. But corporations do what they do because of the decisions of people including management, investors, employees and customers.

Investors, employees and customers are three very different groups of people with different needs. Metaphors for managing these needs slide quickly to herding cats and designing by committee.

Then there are laws in place to represent the interests of these three groups -- securities and exchange laws for investors, labor laws for employees and consumer protection laws for the customers. This is a complex minefield that gets worse the bigger your company gets.

I'm not suggesting that criminals like Ken Lay or executive bonuses in the banking industry are okay -- these guys are individuals taking advantage of a very complex system of safeguards for personal profit. But so are union guys who take advantage of the system, or customers who sue for millions because they misused a product and got a bruise.

This gets down to individual accountability -- if we live in a culture of "I'd better take advantage of the other guy before he screws me" then it doesn't matter if we're talking about corporate thievery or personal integrity because at the end of the day, it's the same thing.ID#comments
Mon, 5 Oct 2009 08:30:46 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Entrepreneur or Dreamer? the years, Conquent has worked with a lot of entrepreneurs. It's a good thing we also have worked with boring, established companies, or Conquent would never have made it ten years, or ten months for that matter.

I get pulled into these things because I have that ability to translate business ideas into things you can actually hire someone to do. It's a rare skill to actually talk about business in terms of problem solving and a skill that most entrepreneurs lack.

They have a vision, but a vision is often hard to separate from a dream, and if you've ever had someone try to describe their dream over breakfast, you know there isn't a lot of logic to hang onto. ("Christine Brinkley, David Brinkley, I don't know, I just know there was a Brinkley..." I gotta know which one as I have two very different ideas of what I'd do with Christine vs. David...)

I would like to believe that people start businesses for solid reasons -- they want to bring something into the world that no one else can do, that they have some unique talent or idea that will really make a splash, and hopefully some money.

But most people just hate their jobs. What they don't understand is that 99% of the time, people who start their own businesses are simply making a job for themselves, and usually the same job they just came from. Only now, they have to not only do the job they they hated (cook, draft, sell widgets, whatever) but they also have to become an accountant, learn law, make sure they toilets are clean, maintain supplies, collect payments, and corral people who hate their jobs.

And so the dream of being the master of your own domain crashes and burns. Part of it is being alone (which is part of the dream), and part of it is not being able to let go of the fuzzy parts of the dream, or understanding when your vision is lacking.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't chase your dreams, but you shouldn't do it alone. You need partners who think differently than you to clear out the fuzzy parts. Most importantly, and probably most rarely, you need to respect those differences just as they need to respect your way of thinking.

One of my favorite phrases is "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" but this is only true if you get the right partners. I've been involved in far too many projects where the whole is substantially less than the sum of the parts; the partners aren't letting each other do their jobs, the process is broken and dragging everyone down.

We're working on a business model to help address a lot of these problems -- giving people the ability to do what they're good at but the security of a broader organization. The model will help, but at the end of the day, it's the relationships we're building as we're taking our own fuzzy vision and turning it into something understandable that can be delivered.ID#comments
Sun, 4 Oct 2009 10:52:32 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Adweek Social Media Twitter for Brands Presentation Ross and I spoke together at the Adweek Social Media Strategies Conference in San Francisco a couple weeks back. Here's a copy of the slide deck that we presented, although I think our conversational style of presenting made it a bit more interesting than the deck alone -- if you'd like to hear our presenation and watch the back of some guy's head, you can find a copy by clicking here.

Twitter for Brands

ID#comments Sat, 3 Oct 2009 14:48:38 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator Socializing is more than Social Media work last night I went down to Mark's gallery showing in the Pearl. I wouldn't have been aware of it if he hadn't sent me a direct message on Twitter telling me about it, and I probably would have been less likely to go execept for the fact that we've met at a number of Beer and Blog events.

I also wandered over to Eve's pastel exhibit a few blocks away. Although Eve and Michael are good friends whom we see frequently, I knew about the event because of being on her email list. Again, I get lots of these kinds of invites, but when your friends invite you to their art opening, you go.

After hooking up with some friends for drinks, we ended up at Whiffies. Whiffies is in a food cart corral in SE Portland; they fry small pies while you wait -- amazingly good street food at part of what makes Portland great. And a place I would never have darkened had I not met the owner, followed him on Twitter, and was subtly reminded to visit as I saw his postings slide by my screen along with others talking about how much they love Whiffies.

Great thing about that food corral is that I always seem to run into people I know online, but don't see very often in person. Heck, last night I ran into a woman who was incredulous that I was even on Twitter, and it turned out we were already following each other. Now we know.

Which brings me to the title of this posting -- social media, or social promotion, works a hell of a lot better if you actually have some kind of social connection with your online connections. It doesn't have to be close friends like Eve and Michael, but it helps if you meet your potential fans or promoters like Mark.

Sure, there are other ways to build those connections (hey, it's one of the reasons I blog), but I think the piece marketers are missing is that if you really want social promotion to work, you can't just exepect mindless compliance with your message -- you have to add a bit of humanity and a little socializing into the mix.
Fri, 2 Oct 2009 09:34:03 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Generational Marketing is a Myth (or Who's your Daddy?) that Social Media Video I blogged about yesterday, there was a stat that John pointed out to me: "By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers."

John responded with:
The sociological studies put the baby boomers as 1945 – 1963-65 (depending on researcher), gen x as mid ‘60’s to mid 70’s or ‘80’s (depending on researcher) and generation y later.

Here’s the rub: baby boomers are the kids of WWII people. Gen X are boomer’s babies. And gen Y are also boomer’s babies or others that came along later and the sociologists don’t know what to do with. This is not reasonable social science and I suppose I take particular issue because there is no place for anyone who didn’t fight in WWI or WWII, and there is no place for anyone who is not a baby or the grandchild of the WWII people.

I think this whole thing of targeting a generation based on who you parents are probably made sense when women were done having babies at 25, but even then, I don't think it mattered, because men were still making babies at 50. Maybe generations mattered more when wealth was based more on succession (even if we're the same age, if I'm your Uncle, I inherit when your Dad inherits, but you gotta wait until your dad dies). Who's your daddy doesn't matter in an egalitarian society.

Age-based marketing, however, does matter. My youngest sister and my niece are about the same age, and they hang out together. The share culture not based on their parents, but on the media they have consumed and the technologies that have learned when they were young (as opposed to my history of the computer).

I would market to both of them exactly the same way, and it doesn't matter than one of them is the daughter of a depression kid and the other is the grand daughter of the depression kid (Gen Z?).

So, to sum up my rather vague point with a really esoteric statement: it's not generational marketing, its temporal culture -- not where you're from, but WHEN you're from.
Thu, 1 Oct 2009 12:08:50 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Social Media is Just the Way We Use the Internet'm an expert on Internet technology and culture. I've been told I'm an expert on Social Media, but I keep getting back to the question, what the hell is Social Media?

There are some obvious things that go in this box, Twitter, facebook, mySpace, and a tools like digg. But way too many things are being thrown into the box with websites that are driven by users interacting with each other.

Part of it is hype. If you have a few minutes to feel like something really exciting is happening, watch this video that pretty much makes any successful website part of "Social Media."

The numbers these people bandy about are amazing, but why not talk about how many billions of people make phone calls, or write letters, or attend community meetings? When you start talking about the millions of people doing things online as if the Internet created communication, you miss the entire point.

It's not Social Media, it's people being social using the most ubiquitous medium -- the Internet. The Internet is an amazing communication tool. It combines audio, visual, text and a way of referencing information that's never existed before. But, this idea that everything you never did online before 2008 is somehow "Social Media" completely misinterprets what the revolution is.

Reading a book on your Kindle is NOT social media -- telling a friend about a book on Facebook is social media. Watching a video online is NOT social media -- I don't care if you found the link to the latest episode of The Daily Show from a friend, the site that shows the program is a traditional content publisher.

All of this is just accelerated communication and faster access to information. The fact that people are involved in creating that information and communicating with each other means the Internet is going to be filled with that kind of activity.

But let's be clear -- Twitter and Facebook are just how we use the Internet today. The revolution is far from over.
Wed, 30 Sep 2009 13:41:38 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Twitter Followers Don't Matter (ask the porn sites) is a popularity contest, but it doesn't really matter if you're popular -- you can still go to the party. And partying there is the brand of twitters I like to call Twitter Whores.

Some of them really are whores -- porn sites trying to get you to dig into your trousers and open your wallet to see a little boobage (and more, obviously). Some are just people who want lots of followers to try to sell those followers other products and services. And while you would never talk to these people if they tried to cold call you, they have been successful getting followers simply by following, because everyone wants to be more popular on Twitter.

These aren't your friends or your colleagues, and as we get better filters, they aren't being as successful in getting followers. I'll let them follow me (unless I really hate their avatar image) but I'm not going to follow them back.

But they are finally figuring out that they don't need you to follow them to reach you on Twitter -- instead, they just randomly mention you. I'll always look for mentions of my name, so I'll see their posting. And, they can be vague enough to get you to click through to their websites with a "@bissell: did you see this? http://somelink/xyz"

It's completely automated (just scan for Twitter handles and post your tweet), easy to scale (you can set up new accounts faster than Twitter can shut you down) and you don't need anyone to follow you. And with shortened URLs, it's hard to know where you're going until you land -- nearly guaranteed traffic generation.

Regardless of whether anyone buys the Viagra or porn membership on the other end of these links isn't really even the point. It's the theme I keep getting back to -- as our social lives change and use more tools to broaden who we consider friends, our filters don't keep up, and there will always be clever people out there figuring out ways to get past your defenses and into your pants.ID#comments
Mon, 28 Sep 2009 11:41:18 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Internet is Gooder than Books've been taking some crap lately because I seem to have stopped reading books, and more directly that I'm not a reader of novels. This isn't to say that I don't read -- I actually read a lot, but I tend to read articles and and non-fiction.

I get a lot of my information from the web. This shouldn't be terribly surprising when you consider I spend most of my working hours online, although one might find it surprising I spend so many of my non-working hours online. But I think there is a misconception that a novel has implied value because someone wrote a whole book and got it printed.

The big flaw is in that fact that publishers aren't in it for the greater good, but the lowest common denominator. A great novel comes rarely, but a New York Times Best Seller comes along weekly. It is true that there is a level of filtering and editing that gives the publishing business a better product the way a good restaurant produces a better product than grandma's home cooking, but the emphasis is on the word product, not on good.

There is also the belief that if you can sit still and read an entire novel you have bettered your synapses in your brain -- simply by being forced to keep a story straight in your head and visualize the characters and settings, you exercise creative parts of your brain.

My first argument against synaptic calisthenics can be summed up in two words: Harlequin Romances. I would argue that a lot of the pap on the NYT Best Sellers list isn't much more complex than a good bodice ripper. Maybe written at an 8th grade level rather than a 5th but probably at a 5th rather than a 3rd.

My second argument is that I spend a great deal of time exercising my brain, and the Internet is a big part of that. Not just as part of my job translating complex business objectives into technical deliverables (which, as boring as it sounds, take a bit of mental agility), but I would argue that the era of what we're calling social media has a huge give and take.

Obviously most of what goes by in a twitter stream or on a Facebook page is garbage -- but that's true of all human creation. The weekly best sellers are filled with gems but there are thousands of books that didn't make the list because they are mind-numbing crap. Our blogs, Facebook updates and, ahem, "tweets" are all hit or miss because we haven't built really good filters yet like a Twitter reviewer for the Times.

But these unfiltered social media streams are forcing a whole generation to become more articulate using the written word, sometimes in long form emails and blogs, sometimes in the limitations of text messaging, or what I like to call the Sonnet of the Internet.

And about that written word thing, let me jump to the defense of video. Granted, reading versus watching leaves you with better understanding and retention, but we've confused the mechanism of that retention. The written words allows you to back up and re-read a sentence, or stop for a moment and look up a word.

I'll argue that most people don't actually look up words they don't understand, and most people I know who argue strongly for reading novels, seem to skim rather than really read the words in front of them -- it's just too much volume, and honestly, not important enough for them to really invest themselves into the literary nuances, but rather they're getting the gist of the story.

Which is to say that watching a news snippet posted by a friend on Facebook might actually give you more depth than reading the paper. You can pause, you can look up things you don't understand, and you have access to all that reference right there on your computer. No longer do you need a smoking jacket and a dark wood paneled library in your house to be the Professor who can find the answer.

With new media come the arguments that we are becoming more attention deficit; I argue we are becoming more discerning. If we aren't learning or getting what we want out of a medium, we move onto another until we find what we are looking for. When we find it, we hold hugely complex ideas and concepts in our heads.

Take TV in the 70s compared to today, for example. In the 70s the intellectual programs were things like Mary Tyler Moore or M*A*S*H -- quick, 30 minute sitcoms with a little message and no continuity. Now our trash is Battlestar Gallactica or Mad Men -- complex, far reaching story arcs with a message that is so ingrained in the story telling that you don't fell like there's a message at all, but it gives you pause for thought and interesting conversations (perhaps online) later.

The Internet is revolutionary, just as the printing press was. With revolution comes confusion and distrust -- but while we know this is the end of the an age, we can't know where this New Information Age is really taking us. But I can tell you, it's going to be far more different than novels versus movies versus video games.

It's going to change our synaptic connections beyond recognition, so hang on, it might get a little bumpy.ID#comments
Sun, 27 Sep 2009 14:34:12 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Sometimes you don't want your campaign to go viral just don’t know when Microsoft is going to learn they aren't cool. I’ll defend Microsoft on a lot of territory -- their open platform (not as open as Linux, but WAY more open than Apple), the customization the OS allows with a wide range of hardware, and a lot of great software from the dull but very functional office suite through their gaming platform and even their mobile software (now that WM 6.1 is out).

But they have to stop trying to be cool.

In particularly, there's this lame video trying to get people to host a Windows 7 Launch Party. Sure, people have parties for all sorts of commercial things like season premiers and new books or debates and elections. But this? I think not

Of course, there's the problem with trying to get your message out there in a cool hip way when you're obviously not cool or hip. People will make fun of you, and it's usually going to be a LOT more amusing to watch. Like this censored version of the same video -- not only more entertaining, but a lot shorter too:

Maybe that idea to tap into social networks needed a little thought first...
Fri, 25 Sep 2009 11:30:12 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Best Twitter Branding Campaign
If you've ever looked at Conquent's branding, you'll notice we keep a pretty low profile. It kind of gets into my philosophy of "it's complicated enough, let's not make it any more complicated." But every now and then, something happens that's pretty cool and I feel like I really have to toot the horn.

As you may know, I post for Roger Sterling on Twitter; it's a side gig, but I've learned a lot, and the Conquent team has gotten to play with technologies we wouldn't otherwise be looking at. There are lots of people involved, some are agency folks, some are fans who do it purely for the love of the characters, and some, well, I have no idea who tweets for the dog or the toilet.

It's really an amazing facet of the Internet. AMC has nothing to do with what is one of the more remarkable outreach campaigns online. Not that everyone involved agrees that it's a campaign at all, but we've seen people get into the TV show because they got into the banter from the Twitter characters, there's been mainstream press about the twittering and now, the Mad Men Twitterers have done another first -- the fans got an award for a campaign.

The project made it to the final three, up against the green M&M and a travel site. The judges said they were overwhelmed with submissions, and I know there's a lot of great stuff going on out there in the world of branding on Twitter. To have this ad hoc group beat out major agencies for a seat with the Finalists is a great honor, and a great insight into how Social Media changes the rules, or maybe just doesn't know what the rules are.

Fri, 18 Sep 2009 10:05:05 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Like flies to crap, Spammy Twitter Followers don't really go away is filling up with the kind of annoying people who you avoid at parties like the guy with the stack of business cards whose only small-talk is lifted from a textbook on how to "engage the prospect." When I asked on Twitter what we should call these people in Twitter parlance (Spamters? Spweeters? Twammers?), @Lelonopo responded simply, "We call them lame asses."

So after some sake and ouzo last night, I started blocking a few of the more obvious advertising followers. What was interesting was that as I started to complain on Twitter about the idiot Twitter-spammers, more started following me. Like swatting flies, or maybe blood in the water to sharks (but I hate to elevate these people to shark status), as I got rid of some, others would show up.

Of course, the reason for this is bots following key words, so if I start talking about idiots selling weight loss products, their programs will see "weight loss" and automatically follow me. What surprises me is how many people follow these annoying bots; but then, Twitter rewards getting followers by letting you follow even more people (you can only follow 2,000 people, unless you get 2,000 people to follow you, then you have to maintain some kind of ratio to keep following more).

So people let the bots follow them, and maybe even encourage them. It's a weird world where people encourage spammy advertisers to talk to them...ID#comments
Tue, 11 Aug 2009 10:56:30 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
iPhone SMS Security Hole isn't really an iPhone rant -- lots of smartphones have had security holes which could be exploited with the right kind of attack, and honestly this problem isn't limited to the iPhone (Google's Android platform is apparently affected, too).

Apple describes it like this:
A memory corruption issue exists in the decoding of SMS messages. Receiving a maliciously crafted SMS message may lead to an unexpected service interruption or arbitrary code execution. This update addresses the issue through improved error handling.

In plain English, a hacker could basically get root access (super user) by sending a series of text messages that would cause the phone to almost crash, and then the hacker can run programs while the phone is dazed.

Of course I find it ironic that the iPhone is vulnerable to a text messaging attack while it doesn't even support Multimedia Messaging.

If you want a little ranting, when I went to update the iPhone (which Markie never synchronizes) it didn't just install a quick security patch, but instead wanted to install around 150MB of updates for Quicktime, Safari, and some kind of My Mobile platform.

The Android update, by comparison, was small and painless. We actually had to go check that it had happened it was so quick and easy.

And, perhaps surprisingly, my Windows Mobile 6 phone wasn't affected at all.
Mon, 3 Aug 2009 14:30:02 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
How Flipmytweet works'm like the cynic at a magic show when I see the little web tricks people get excited about. I generally look and say, "dear lord, we did that eons ago an you're getting excited now?"

But, I saw this tweet today with upside down text and could not figure out how it was done. ʞuıl sıɥʇ ʍolloɟɥʇ op oʇ ʍoɥ

It's not that I don't know of tricks to fiddle with text using JavaScript or other tools, but this is in the 140 character, plain text world of Twitter, not exactly a place you're going to embed stylesheets or code.

Turns out to be an interesting trick, and really esoteric. They wrote a script that first reverses your text (abc becomes cba) and the substitutes each character with something that LOOKS like the upside down version of the letter.

So, the "h" for example, is substituted with the latin mu (wait, that's not mu.. damn, can't remember my Greek alphabet...). Some are easier, like d becomes p and visa versa.

Of course, in this era of search engine optimization and text messaging, I wouldn't want to rely on a mix of Unicode and ascii text, but then again, I doubt whoever figured this out was really interested in conforming to standards.
ID#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2009 10:41:58 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator Cell Phones as Microscopes've been preaching for years that with the right bandwidth, you don't need a lot of computer to do massively complex work in the field. Cell phones are now becoming that ultra-slim portal to the vast computing power and data storage system we call the Internet, and I gotta say, this little doodad really steps the idea up a notch.

It's a microscope attached to a cell phone.

Granted, it's not designed for really detailed microscopic viewing, but it takes an image using fluorescence to highlight certain biological features, such as finding Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria in humans, or sickle-shaped red blood cells.

So, you're in rural Africa trying to figure out what's wrong with a patient. You take a sample, zap it with your cell phone, it goes back to the lab and you get a call shortly telling you they've got malaria. You don't have to ship the sample over impassible roads to a lab someplace far away, you could literally get results from the lab while you wait, and that lab could be on the other side of the planet.

I think the really cool part of this system is that you can do this from just about any phone, you don't need a fancy iPhone or Blackberry, just a phone with a camera that can transmit the image.

It's all about being connected.
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 11:41:46 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Digg is not the Hijacker -- You Are is a service that lets you easily rate articles as you wander around the 'net. It's a great idea, the sort of "digestive reporting" that we need for finding relevant content in a world full of irrelevant information flowing like the New York sewers during halftime on the Super Bowl.

Publishers can include a little snippet of code to let people with Digg accounts rate the article; you just click a "digg-it" button, and your vote is counted without you ever leaving the page.

Now when people come look at your page, they can see a rating (how many people liked the article) and it's added to Digg's database so people might find you through Digg's website under popular topics.

They also provide a service that lets you grab a "tiny url" that lets you share the article with a friend -- so rather than following you can have a short URL like

And here's where people are getting pissed.

There are lots of TinyUrl redirects out there (I referenced Conquent's own with the links above), and the expected behavior is that they'll just send you along to your link. Only now, Digg is stopping you on their site, showing you an advertisement, and offering other, similar content.

Honestly, I don't see any problem with this -- after all you're using Digg's service, server, and bandwidth, even if you are just bouncing off their server and moving along to the link. And this underscores what I had realized a long time ago: if you rely on a free, third party service to link to your website, you're handing those people the keys to your traffic. You're not building a bunch of links to YOUR site out there when you use tinyurl, or digg -- you're building links to them and trusting that they'll stay in business and keep sending your traffic along.

Digg provides a great, relevant service, and I think the folks getting upset about the "link hijacking" are just surprised -- remember Digg isn't hijacking a damn thing, you're hijacking THEIR bandwidth, and it's only reasonable to give a little something back to them and build a better, richer service.

Otherwise, install your own url redirect software. And if you don't know how, let me know and we'll get you hooked up.

Can you digg it?
Sun, 19 Jul 2009 16:11:14 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Steve Ballmer -- the walking dead? posted this image yesterday on Facebook and Twitpic posing the question, is it just me, or does Steve Ballmer look more and more like the Monster in Young Frankenstein?

Aside from the obvious separated at birth similarities, it got me thinking of the fact we might actually be seeing the walking dead -- not Ballmer himself, but Microsoft.

Microsoft is a stitched together carcass of bits and pieces of technology, and those bits and pieces are beginning to smell funny. They lost the browser war to Firefox, they lost the music player war to the iPod and iTunes, they're not doing so hot in the mobile market with the iPhone and Blackberry fighting for first, and the games market... well, I suppose the Xbox does okay, but it's no PS3 or Wii. (Should never named it "Ex" as in the ex-box...)

I think of the photo of the Monster with his finger on fire as an artistic metaphor for Ballmer discovering that Google has an operating system...

Wed, 15 Jul 2009 08:31:09 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Twitter as an open mic poetry reading took my friend Bruce down to Beerandblog. It's a great slice of Portland with creative geeks drinking high proof beer at the Green Dragon Brewpub. This week it was in the outdoor patio by the quanza hut (which causes a slowdown in the drinking as you can't just wander up to the bar and order -- taking it out, onto the sidewalk and into the garden violates some sort of OLCC rule).

It's an interesting mix of creative extroverts and not-so-creative extroverts with a number of folks who would really like to be extroverts but just haven't had enough beer yet. Tech jokes go over well, word play is normal communication, and the mismatched socks aren't by accident.

Tonight's main event was the #whattheshit readings of favorite tweets. Think open mic poetry reading with the found poems of the 140 character postings one finds on twitter. When asked if I would read favorite tweets in a theatrical, poetic style I said, "Sure!" not realizing that most of the dozen or so participants had been researching for weeks to find a perfect blend of tweets to recite.

I quickly got on my phone's web browser and started searching for crowd pleasing tidbits. I started with "Michael Jackson" thinking that being topical might be good, but, really, I have to think in retrospect, that was dumb... So I moved on to "fuck twitter" which got some interesting tweets, but I decided I didn't want EVERY thing I said to have a FUCK in the middle of it. I finally searched on "twitter sucks" which definitely gave me some tweets perfect for the cynical, beer quaffing, blogging crowd.

Here's what I came up with:


@kladkins: twitter sucks twitter sucks twitter sucks twitter sucks!

@thomas_x: playing on twitter, checking out my sister's twitter page, wondering why scifi became syfy, I know why, but god it sucks

@amuldoon: Nevermind; Twitter sucks. I really don't get why people use this, haha. Facebook ftwwwwwwwwww.

@frankshyong: excellent twitter account activity. I like that you only follow me and shaq. ILL sucks pretty hard @Ian_Graves

@ryansentz: Life sucks and so does twitter

@mollydotcom: I will never understand / s/he who follows in twitter land / that which offends and makes one shout / haven't you heard? / OPT THE FUCK OUT.

The poem I placed at the end was golden. Who would have thought that 5-10 minutes on a cell phone would garner such a perfect #whattheshit tweet.ID#comments
Fri, 10 Jul 2009 21:42:55 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Automatic Social [un]Awareness on a political issue in a business setting is usually a bad idea -- but I'll take a whack at it anyhow.

There is a Twitter App called "Support #IranElection" which lets you turn your twitter avatar green to show your support of the protesters in Iran. All you have to do is log into Twitter using their special link, and BAM, your avatar turns green.

I can't say I know a lot about what's going on in Iran -- I know there are two groups of people, one slightly less conservative than the other, but that both groups are really conservative. I heard the alternatives described as either North Korea (totalitarian with no Western access) or China (totalitarian with some Western access).

There are questions about the validity of the election, but it's hard to say if it was rigged or not. There are questions about how the protesters have been treated, but it's hard to say who's causing the disruptions.

There are a lot of questions, and not a lot of answers, but there is this App that lets you show support for the less totalitarian crowd with one click.

As I cruise around the Internet I'm seeing a lot of green pictures, but I have to wonder if the people supporting the Iran Election protests are doing so because they have a deep belief that the protesters are right and the government is wrong, or if it's a fashionable thing to do.

I think expressing your opinions and beliefs is a good idea (otherwise I wouldn't have posted this), but I think they should be YOUR opinions and beliefs. My fear about these kinds of quick "me-too" apps is that it dilutes the message and can derail a campaign, and ultimately distract people from really learning about an issue because they've already "joined the cause" in one click.

Of course, when we run campaigns at Conquent, we want to see the numbers swell, and remove as many obstacles between a person and their ability to show support. I think the trick in the long run is to find ways to engage those people beyond just a ribbon or a color -- engage, teach, and spread a message with a credible, educated following.
Tue, 30 Jun 2009 10:02:10 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
First splash for United Against Malaria is developing a website for Hill and Knowlton's client, the UN Foundation's United Against Malaria project. Not only is it always great to work with such high profile projects, but it's an amazingly important cause and I'm personally glad to be a part of it.

The campaign is centered around the 2010 World Cup in Africa next year. So, the placeholder page went live today for the match between Tunisia and Sudan this afternoon (2PM Eastern).

The whole thing underscores to me how the web makes the world a little smaller, yet shows us how big it is. I mean, as an American, I have to admit I didn't even know there was a team in Tunisia called "The Carthage Eagles"; and the fact that Sudan faces Benin June 7 forced me to go to Wikipedia and look up Benin (squeezed between Nigeria and Togo, Benin was known as Dahomey until 1975 -- not that I knew where or what Dahomey was...).

I'm looking forward to tracking the matches over the next year and, in the process, I expect I'll learn more about soccer, Africa, and of course, malaria on the continent.

(You can read the article in the Tunisia Online News about the match today by clicking here.)ID#comments
Thu, 28 May 2009 08:11:22 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
New Media/Old Media and the CLIO Awards'll be heading to the 2009 Clio Awards tomorrow. No, I'm not getting an award, other than the honor of having been invited and getting a full pass to all the events. The invite was for the work that Carri, Helen and I did on the Mad Men Twitter campaign and they'd like us to live, ahem, tweet1

It's exciting, sure, but...

Look, I've been pushing this envelope for so long you could put a small country in it. I started online advertising in '95 when the only ad model was a 468x60 banner and the only option was to buy or sell on a cost per thousand impression model.

We invented ways to track clicks and then buy and sell clicks, then we had to invent ways to track purchases or form fill outs so we could buy and sell on actions. Then we shattered the banner ad and got into all sorts of stuff.

I had a Palm Pilot with a cell modem on it back in 97 and we started developing mobile apps for sales people who needed mobile sales and inventory tracking (there was an App for that a LONG time ago, Apple). And, don't get me started on Social Media widgets, which I was working on back in '98 when Social Media was called "viral".

The thing that has slowed me down over the years has been being too far ahead of the curve. When I was selling web development back in '95, I had to sell dial-up to get people online and THEN get them interested in a website. Fairly long sales cycle.

When I was pitching mobile apps in 2000, most people were still just getting the hang of text messaging. Heck, when I was selling computers in the late '80s there were bulletin boards, but no Internet...

Over the past couple years things have come together. Not only has the market matured, but Conquent has the portfolio and the experience to bridge a wide range of industries and the equally wide range of media you can push your message through (web, social platforms, mobile, and don't screw traditional in the process). Getting the multimedia world of broadband right across all these properties is a trick, but nothing new to the team.

What's exciting is taking these tested ideas (mobile, social media and just plain old fashioned web) and hooking them up in new ways to new campaigns. Our recent work with Hill and Knowlton has shown me that the traditional world is hungry for these tools. It's hard to find a group that can talk plain english about these complex topics, and that's where Conquent comes in. It's not buzzwords, it's not jumping on the latest band wagon, it's just plain old business and marketing sense using the tools to get the job done.

I'm really looking forward to talking with folks at the CLIOs to see what they're looking for next, and maybe show them a few things they haven't thought of...

Note 1: I really hate that term "tweet"; I mean "posting" is fine. But as we don't search, we "Google", the branding of activities continues to grow.
Sun, 10 May 2009 16:03:20 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Interview at SXSW: Mad Men Twitter And Tracking

This interview was taken right after the panel discussion at SXSW Interactive conference.ID#comments
Sat, 9 May 2009 14:35:15 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
We've got an App for that -- it's called the Web've got an App for that -- it's called the Web

There's an ad running for the iPhone which I will paraphrase:
Say you're a small business owner and you need to run a credit card. We've got an app for that. Now say you need to print a shipping label. We've got an app for that. Now say you want to make sure it got there. We've got an app for that, too.

Yeah. It's called the web.

Look, you can run your customer's credit card through any number of payment portals through a simple web page, through a LOT of browsers installed on a LOT of phones. You can pull up printable labels, but if you're on a phone you have to switch to a local wifi connection to print it and how often do you do that? Finally, FedEx has had lots of ways to track packages remotely since pagers. Yeah, I said "pagers" as in "the iPhone is as good as a crack dealer's pager."

I know I rant on Apple, but I think what I really rant about is the fact that they're taking credit for a whole lot of stuff that already exists. I can do all that they talk about in that ad on my Windows Mobile phone.

But, more importantly, I could do most of what they're talking about in 1997 on my Palm Pilot. It's not new, it's just packaged well.

Let's not even go into the absurdity of printing a shipping label from your phone. Instead, let's consider the exclusivity Apple is breeding with their campaign. Their advertising implies the ONLY mobile computing is on the iPhone. It's an us and them mentality that stifles true innovation and the sharing of information, and if you want to be honest about it, it's a campaign that fosters bigotry.

If you think the word "bigotry" is too strong, think about the "I'm a Mac, you're a pathetic idiot" campaign.

Am I overreacting? Maybe. But let's really think different for a moment. If your company is built on the concept that you're cooler than everyone else, why do you have to take petty shots at people who work for a living ("I'm a PC, I have poor fashion sense and work hard" "I'm a Mac; I'm a slacker who can't even dress himself")? Why do you pretend that you're the only one on the block who thought about accessing FedEx through a cell phone?

Apple is not the counter culture revolution. Apple IS the man. Just a Man who dresses casually, but also a man who hasn't got a creative bone in his body.
Tue, 28 Apr 2009 22:03:11 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Understanding Google To Get Your Resume Noticed of the key underlying technologies for “Web 2.0” (which is just a marketing buzz word; it’s the same web it’s always been) is “search” capabilities. This is the backbone of Google, Windows Live!, Yahoo, etc. To put it simply, it is a combination of character recognition (words and phrases) and indexing on a massive scale.

Understanding how search tools work is one of the keys to any online endeavors such as blogging, selling any sort of product/service, and…job hunting.

Think of the yellow pages and how they are indexed. By topic, then by entry alphabetically. To find what you are looking for, you have to *know* what it is classified under. The one that always annoyed me was that cab companies are listed under “taxi”. If I didn’t know to look under “taxi” I’d never get to the airport!

Now think of using Google. You are looking for something very specific, like a dry cleaner that is environmentally friendly in your area. You start your search a number of ways, like:

Dry cleaner Chicago green

You may get 254 hits across the metro area, and you live in Glen Ellyn. So you change your search to

Dry cleaner Glen Ellyn green

You *could* also do something like

Green dry cleaner 60137

The more creative you get with your searching, the more refined –or broad- your results will be. Most people think in pretty basic terms and get tons of results, then have to look through all them to find what they are looking for.
The way Google and other search engines identify the results of any search is based on the content on the page. The engine searches for keywords, indexes them, and returns them as results. The keywords are called “metadata tags”. (Often if you see a list of terms at the bottom of an article or blog posting, those are tags the author has identified for metadata search tools.)

So from a recruiting perspective, how do we “find” the right candidate? By keyword searching. Usually when we receive a job description, recruiters create a list of keywords that they will use to search for candidates. All major job boards and Applicant Tracking Systems use keyword searching. Here is the *most important* piece of information for the job seeker: these databases return results based on a stack-ranked system. That system ranks *by the number of times the word appears in the profile.* So the old “stick to one page” resume advice isn’t always your best bet.

Like every other profession, some recruiters are good at this aspect of their job, others aren’t. A seasoned recruiter knows how to vary their search based on related terms that may or may not be in the job description. But many don’t have the luxury of experimenting with variety, or don’t know the value of it. So it is very important to make sure your resume, if you are applying for a specific job, is tailored to the job’s keywords. If you are using a general resume on a job board such as Monster or CareerBuilder, keep in mind the keyword stack ranking when you are composing your resume.

Thu, 2 Apr 2009 19:36:07 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The trouble with Wordpress and other templates just completed a project which included the installation of Wordpress; while Conquent doesn't usually use Wordpress, the client has a volunteer team working on content and they all have familiarity with the system, which made Wordpress the right choice to get the content up and running.

The project helped me to articulate why Conquent, philosophically, doesn't embrace any single platform or tool to get projects done. The problem isn't necessarily from the programming or the tool itself but stems from the very fact that tools are designed to simplify problems.

To simplify the management of content you have to create rules. To create those rules, you have to make assumptions. Those assumptions will ultimately sacrifice flexibility.

That's fine when you have a straightforward need. But systems like Wordpress try to be "all things to all people." As soon as you start adding things, you start to conflict with the idea of simplifying the system.

Instead of a basic content system, you end up with plug-ins, special pages, and a bunch of add-ons that make sense in their own context, but create a mess for people who don't need or use those functions, and even a bigger mess when you start combining these unrelated tools.

At the same time, you're still limited by the constraints of the system. So, now you have an environment with its own set of rules getting in the way of making things look and work the way you want at the same time you're dealing with a complex framework.

Keeping this in mind at the beginning of a project is really important. Don't start with the rules of the content management system, instead start with the rules of your business strategy and marketing. Technology, by the very definition of the word, is to apply science to solving problems.

Too often we apply technology without really understanding the problem we're trying to solve. Then people spend all their effort solving problems that wouldn't have existed if they had just picked the right tool at the beginning of the project.

In this case, Wordpress was the right tool, and having a team that's able to "get under the hood" helped us make that decision and advise future clients when they have a problem seeking a solution.

Mon, 9 Mar 2009 10:52:39 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Wayward Words with Baggage trying to explain what Conquent does, I'm constantly running into words with baggage. These were good words once, but bad people got a hold of them and abused them, either by twisting the word into something it never was, or making the poor word work so hard it loses any meaning it had.

Topping the list is the word "Synergy." Honestly, it's the best word to describe how we put the right people and the right resources together to get a project done, but the word was used by sales people who would say it phonetically and never actually consider what it meant. This led the word into a life of shame and ridicule, to the point that if you try to introduce it into polite society, you'll be laughed at, and never invited back.

John hates the word "robust." "Robust" would have been a fine word, but it strayed from its roots in coffee and wine. "Robust management team" might mean that they've been roasted to get a full, rich flavor, but in the context of describing Conquent's approach to management, we want to say that the team has strength and vigor. "Robust" just doesn't mean anything anymore.

We can't use words like "innovative" or "solutions" (and certainly not "innovative solutions") because most people who use those words are neither innovative nor do they actually solve anything. It's not that the words are wrong, it's that we've been lied to too many times with these words and we've lost trust in them because of who they hang around with.

Tech people have started using the word "ecosystem" to describe the interrelation of hardware, software, data, people, and, well... the "ecosystem" of technology. It's probably exactly the right word, but I'm afraid that we're about to kill another good word.

We have to find other words or phrases rather than dealing with the baggage these abused words carry. In a sense, I feel that marketers and sales people who are over using good words are crippling the language. Rather like a life in pornography, the words are so pretty when they start out, but they get dirty in a dirty industry, and are never the same.

Maybe we should start a home for wayward words to help rehabilitate words and help keep other words from falling in with the wrong crowd. But, what we really need to do is get the abusers in for some therapy before they kill again.

Marketers and Sales People -- you're on notice.ID#comments
Wed, 4 Mar 2009 15:24:07 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Speaking at SXSW March 17th have been asked to speak at SXSW on March 17th, along with Carri Bugbee and Helen Ross, for our work with what we've been calling the Mad Men experiment.

We started twittering as characters from the AMC show Mad Men back in August for plain old fun. It's kind of a form of performance art, with a huge need for improvisational talent. Not only do we create scenarios for what our characters might be doing (as Twitter asks), but we have to keep them within the constraints of 1962 AND not violate the story on the series -- tricky to do when you're not privy to the writers notes.

I was originally going to write for Don Draper, but the character was already taken -- no problem, turns out Roger Sterling is a lot more fun. After all, he's done what I've always wanted to do with my company, that is, get to the point where he really has little to do all day. He drinks, smokes, and chases women (catching them from time to time). It turned out to be disturbingly easy to channel him.

As it progressed we started learning a lot about how Twitter works and, more importantly, how Twitter culture works. Talking off-line helped us get a better feel for what was going on with each other's characters, and it let us organize events like the #Madparty, our Twitter-only Christmas party. A little prep offline can go a long ways online.

We also started developing more sophisticated tracking tools -- knowing how a specific event helped build interest, or lose followers, helps keep the message on track. While there's a lot you can do by hand, it gets hard to manage communications from thousands or tens of thousands of followers.

And then there's all the buzz from people who AREN'T following you. Tracking the blogs, the news articles, and the general chit chat outside your immediate world takes time -- any tool we can use to minimize that time means more time to interact with fans and hecklers.

In the end, we got press in The Wall Street Journal, and Business Week among others, which has led to speaking at SXSW.

All in all, it was a great learning experience, and shows that it's something you need to be constantly learning about and adapting to -- "Social media" is still a buzzword, but if you happen to be in Austin March 17th and want to get past the buzz, be sure to come to our panel discussion. I'll be hitting town on the 15th if anyone wants martini drinking lessons.
Tue, 3 Mar 2009 14:37:40 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The fleeting Memory of the Internet Internet is an amazing compendium of random thought, and like thoughts, a lot of this information is fleeting. Some of it is fleeting because who really wants to hear the Dancing Hamster song again, and some of it is fleeting because the place the information was stored, like dying nerves in the brain, is gone. Unless your bit of information was important enough to be copied to another place on the Internet, it's probably gone for ever.

Aside from the technical reasons we lose information online, I think the main reason is that we simply don't care about the information. If it's important, or particularly memorable, it probably will stick around. But so much of the content we see online is just a written version of what we talk about at the water cooler -- important in context, but as time goes by, less necessary to keep around.

We have backups of data at Conquent, but who would really mourn the lost data from some guy's random blog? Unless something happens and I attain celebrity status, it's unlikely that people will be digging through my past ramblings. The problem is that those ramblings will be gone without conscious effort to retain them.

Of course, there's lots of random stuff stuck in the corners of the Internet, and I wonder what kind of picture would emerge of me if some forensic anthropologist tried to piece the bits together later. There are lots of random photos of Anna Frank, for example, where she was in the background of a photo and only because we cared later, did those photos surface. But what we really know about the girl is limited to what she wrote in her famous journal.

The memory of the Internet is fleeting, malleable, and constantly susceptible to sensory overload. The way we store data online is less like the great archives of a library and more like a gossip tree -- things get distorted as they pass from person to person and get re-interpreted or get processed through Photoshop.

You can't believe everything you see online because it's not the truth, it's just the bit of information we remember right now, and it's going to change again tomorrow...ID#comments
Sat, 28 Feb 2009 13:56:20 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
It's okay to say 'I don't know' a professional consultant means coming in and saving the day. People are relying on you to answer questions, and there's definitely a sense of pride as you come into a situation and knock things off one by one.

But there's a danger in being too cocky. It's easy to believe that you have the situation in hand and that you don't need to look any further than your brain. It's disturbingly easy for a technical consultant to dismiss the client when they tell you "I think it's my hard drive," when you believe it's the power supply. After all, what does the client know? They hired you for your expertise, you obviously know better.

I don't know how many times I've had an employee who doesn't know the answer, but doesn't want to be bothered with explaining that he needs to figure it out, so he makes something up. Everyone does it sometime or another, we're busy people and sometimes it's easier to hide behind jargon and technical babble, but it's better for everyone just to say you don't know.

For one thing, admitting that this stuff is complicated and that you need to do a little research proves to your client that you're dealing honestly with them. You're building rapport with your client, and in the long run that means you're going to have a friend and a loyal customer.

And, if you lie, you're going to get caught.

My favorite story came from a client of mine who was interviewing tech companies for a fairly large project.

Every question he asked the tech was answered with, "No problem, we've got that covered." So, my client asks the guy, "What about the new X-32 protocols?" to which the tech replied, "We've looked at it and we're sure it's not going to be a problem."

Then my client asks, "what about the fact I just made up the X-32 protocols?"

Obviously there wasn't much the tech could do at that point to salvage the account. Anything he said would be suspect, because he proved that he would say anything, including bald faced lies, to get the business.

Being a professional means it's okay to be a little vulnerable. Your clients want to know you're going to take care of them, and they need to know that what you say is what you mean. There are so many geeks in every line of work who will try to dazzle their customers and prospects with big words, complicated descriptions and outright deception that our clients find it refreshing when we say, "I don't know... But, I'll find out."
Wed, 25 Feb 2009 14:17:18 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Nike Takes Over Conquent of the nice things about having a cool space for an office is the fact that Nike wants it in their advertising. I mean, I'm sure they have their own cool spaces, but a 1940s bungalow set against an early 1900's bridge, nestled between a restaurant and row houses... Let's just say that sometimes the Knight has to come to the castle.

We were visited by a Weiden+Kennedy subcontractor a week or so ago who had apparently been scouting the area for an urban mix of old architecture in the city. They're putting together a viral campaign with some video footage -- they didn't tell me much, beyond offering to compensate Conquent for the time they would be on the property and to get some release forms.

Somehow I had gotten the impression they would be setting up a long shot for some kind of time lapse photo. But instead, at 6:00 this afternoon, three unmarked white vans and a large rental panel truck all showed up in front of the office.

People jumped out and started setting up cones to close off the street while others hauling equipment all over the place with lots of handheld radio chatter and stressed movement. It's the kind of scene that, in the movies, is usually followed up with either a large explosion or an alien running for the cover of the bushes.

Of course, six o'clock is about the time we usually get out of the office. I was in the unusual position of having gone home for lunch and ridden my bicycle back to the office, somehow forgetting my shoes. This left me walking barefoot and without a jacket around all the hubbub as filming started. Fortunately I did pack my panniers with street clothes, otherwise I might have been mistaken for the alien heading for the bushes.

Five or six athletic looking guys kept running back and forth in front of the office, with some director on the bridge on the other side of our parking area running direction through the radios. We were able to sneak out in between the athletic guys just as the athletic women showed up, which is as much a testament to bad timing as to just how hard it was to work around having your property turned into a film set (you don't exactly say, "Oh, wait, babes... We'll go later," after you've brought the entire filming to a halt so you can get your car out...)

Ah well, just another day at Conquent.
Wed, 18 Feb 2009 20:57:05 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Facebook owns this title have heard some snide comments from time to time regarding the fact I don't like to use canned applications, and I like hosted services (like Livejournal) even less. There are great advantages to letting someone else do all your programming, but when you run a company that specializes in applicaiton development, it seems silly to be tied to some, unknown technology.

Of course I have accounts all over the place. I'm on Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn,, Twitter, Plaxo, Blogsot, and a few more I can't really even recall off the top of my head. And every time I sign up for one of those service I blithely accept the terms of service.

Now Facebook seems to have pushed the envelope in what they feel they get to do with what I create on their service. In an article in Business Week, I learned that simply by posting someting, be it a photo, a comment, a note, or any other content, Facebook has "an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license" to use, retain, and display content posted to the site." Even after you cancel your account.

This gives me one more reason to maintain a blog on and simply post links to that blog on these other services. I know where the data is and, as my company owns the server, I know that I haven't just given away my content for life.

Not that pictures of me dressed as Santa or playing the Boudrahn are going to be big intellectual property rights later, but it's nice to know I can choose to remove a photo later, or edit a blog to my choosing. It's also nice to know that if anyone is going to make money off my efforts it's going to be me or the people I choose, not some face(book)less company because I happened to click on a checkbox saying I understood their terms of service.

Update 2009-18-10:16
CNN Reports that Facebook backs down, reverses on user information policy.
"As Mark expressed in his blog post on Monday, it was never our intention to confuse people or make them uneasy about sharing on Facebook," company spokesman Barry Schnitt said in a blog post. "I also want to be very clear that Facebook does not, nor have we ever, claimed ownership over people's content. Your content belongs to you."
Of course, it's all fiction -- if Facebook can change their terms of services at anytime, and so easily apparently, then is there really a standard set of terms?ID#comments
Tue, 17 Feb 2009 21:52:09 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Excuses, excuses don't want to imply that there is nothing wrong with the economy, but I'm increasingly getting the impression that some companies are using the economic problems as an excuse to do the dirty things they've wanted to do for a long time.

For example, Boeing has dropped it's employee wellness program citing costs. In reality, the wellness program is a good thing for the employees, but a pain in the ass for the company. With everyone fearing layoffs, Boeing can kill the program, and not worry about an exodus of skilled labor -- where would employees go in this market?

Then there's Microsoft's recent layoff of around 5,000 people. By far, the bulk of those layoffs hit the H1B employees -- foreigners here on a work visa. Microsoft has been using H1B employees for a long time, but it doesn't change the fact that there's a certain level of overhead involved, and the fact the Justice Department keeps tagging the Evil Empire for improper hiring procedures. Again, no problem getting domestic workers in this market, so dump the annoyance and blame the economy.

I've talked about the slow pay issue, that is, companies that are using the economy as an excuse to treat Net30 like Net-when-we-get-around-to-it. And now, I'm seeing organizations change their internal rules for how money is allocated, spent, and protected. Banks are sitting on huge piles of cash -- cash we gave them in the bailout -- but rather than putting it towards business growth, they're keeping it in reserve for when things get really bad.

That's telling it itself. It means the banks don't really believe it's really bad yet. Bad, sure, but no, oh shit bad. Not, "I'm going to throw myself out the window" bad.

In the meantime, the folks on the bottom are being raped by those who still have it good. Not because Boeing can't afford a wellness program, not because Microsoft is losing money and has to lay people off, not even because companies and banks don't have money to pay bills with. They're doing it because they have the perfect excuse to continue to be shortsighted and greedy.ID#comments
Tue, 17 Feb 2009 13:52:55 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
A little on Social Media @PeggyOlson won the Shorty Award last night, we outed all our Mad Men Characters to the Wall Street Journal which they posted in an article called Behind the Twitter Mad-ness.

We learned a lot about social media in the Mad Men experiement. One of the problems that I've seen in the "industry" is that there are a lot of folks out there who present themselves as experts in something that is rapidly evolving and difficult to define.

This makes it difficult to explain exactly what an agency can do for you if you're looking for a Social Media "expert."

In our exploration of the Twitterverse, I think we've defined a few constants that might help if you're considering getting into social marketing.

Although there are a lot of tools out there to keep an eye on Twitter and other streams, it's the experienced human being who knows what to do and when to act that's important. Catching negative comments and forwarding them to the appropriate department or agency is different than engaging discussion and turning a negative into a positive.

For example, the decision to shut down the Mad Men accounts became a positive for us and we can prove it through the blogs and mainstream press it generated -- they missed the boat and inadvertently created more buzz by doing something stupid.

This is, of course, what people expect Social Media to be all about -- you can go out and make friends. But making them, keeping them, and keeping them interested, are all different things. This takes creative writing skills and an understanding of the message and letting that message change as the medium changes.

Honestly it got harder for me to tweet as Roger Sterling after he became so smitten with Jane -- an aloof, skirt-chasing drunkard gives lots of opportunity to engage people with quick comments. But using that relationship in the Mad Party was brilliant -- it gave not only all our characters something to talk about, but it also gave our friends something juicy to dish on.

The Mad Men experiment doesn't really give us an opportunity to do anything beyond engaging people -- we are not involved with the show, and it would be inappropriate to co-opt the brand. But the agency could have done some really cool promotions through the brand by creating a Sterling Cooper company website, with links to promotional items, teasers and fun stuff.

Star Trek has been doing this for years with "fan" sites which are often driven by Paramount. Even more "in your face" goals like the Bissell Pet Photo contest use the engagement on the web to bring visitors to the site and build basic brand awareness.

This, naturally, requires a nimble team that can create these destinations AND be flexible enough to keep up with the fast pace of the social scene.

Finally, if you're going to do any kind of campaign, you have to have tracking to see how your efforts are panning out. This is different than monitoring in that it's more like tagging your efforts to separate them from the general buzz. For me, this has been similar to existing advertising tracking; pretty much track IP address and referring pages so I know when something really goes viral (like my Songsmith blog).

The data sources keep changing, and I've found my needs keep evolving as I learn more about where data comes from (and goes) and what sources there are to monitor that data. Turns out my blog gets steady traffic from Google Reader, which I only saw when I started including remote images in my blog, so I modified my tracking to system to accommodate RSS readers and found people reading my blog using Firefox's embedded reader, Google Reader, and a couple unidentified sources which may be bots; I don't know yet -- but with tools in place, I can learn.

In the end, it's all about being aware and learning more as you go. Social media lets you do it faster and with a lot more random energy and therefore a lot more opportunity for random creative ways of interacting with people.

Thu, 12 Feb 2009 12:38:58 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Feeding on Content are lots of people out there peddling the concept of social media and search engine optimization. Before you say, "WTF?" believe me, I don't think they're connected either. Except in one small way -- it takes fresh content to be found by, and indexed by, the search engines.

One trick to keep fresh content on your website is to grab a feed from another website (you can grab all the content from this blog by going to for example). The problem with that is you end up with just a copy of someone else's content, so the search engine sees no value in your site.

Which leads to the next trick where you grab content from a number of sources with a query. An herein lies the problem -- it's not your content, so you don't really know what the other guy is writing about.

My long standing search string example is the client I had back in 1999 who wanted to show up on search engines under the word "card." Of course "card" can refer to playing cards, computer parts, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, greeting cards, visa/mastercard/bloomingdales charge cards...

It doesn't really matter what you're searching for, if you automate it, you're going to get some "unanticipated results." And as people become more sophisticated, they notice the irregularities more, and deduct points.

Remember, the point of any communication is to deliver relevant information. Throwing shit on the wall might get you a Jackson Pollock masterpiece, but only if you're Jackson Pollock. Most of the time you just get a big mess to clean up.

Tue, 10 Feb 2009 08:28:13 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Attack of the Bots'm noticing a huge increase in traffic to my blog, and I don't think it's because I'm a scintillating writer. The logs we keep for blogs are pretty specific, so it's not hard to see what's going on.

The bots are taking over.

By "bots" I mean a range of automatic systems including search engines, feed readers, and more nefarious systems like tools designed to post bogus comments on your blog or worse yet, find a security weakness to hack or crack the server.

Some bots are better behaved than others -- Google drops by every now and then and grabs a copy of the site for their search engine. MSN seems to be indexing the information constantly. I'd say the bulk of the search engine traffic, and a big part of the overall blog traffic, is from MSN.

Then there are the dozen or so Twitter addons which are constantly watching when people post links on Twitter -- guaranteed I'll get a few dozen hits on the server every time a post a link. And these seem to have spawned a new generation of blog search engines which are constantly grabbing the RSS feed and also indexing the HTML version of the page, giving a double hit to the server.

Of course, the structure of the site causes a little extra traffic simply because I present my blog in three categories, Professional, Personal, and Combined. If it gets posted in either Professional or Personal, it shows up automatically in Combined, giving the bots a little more to chew on.

More disturbing are the bots trying to hijack the site in one way or another. There are bots which try to post their own content to the site via the comment system. Over the past few days the traffic has really picked up on that one, and it looks like it's coming from personal computers with viruses -- no rhyme or reason, the postings come from all over the world and all times of day.

We've stooped the spamming with a simple CAPTCHA (which stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart."); that's why you have to enter that word when you post a comment. The traffic is still there, they just aren't getting their postings through.

Then there are the bots trying to find security weaknesses -- it's amusing to see Windows exploits being tested on our LINUX environment, but it's annoying to know that the barbarians are constantly at the gate trying to get in.

The real problem with this is tracking the effectiveness of marketing Conquent. The blog is one way people find the site, and knowing what kind of traffic we have coming to the blog helps us to understand who's visiting and how we might want to get some traction with those people. But we're constantly spending time filtering out things like "" from real people who appreciate the information and insights they get from this blog.

At the end of the day it probably doesn't matter. Real interactions with real human beings are what make a company like Conquent succeed, and if someone likes what they when they visit the site, the next step is usually an email or phone call.

And that's the best result to track.ID#comments
Mon, 9 Feb 2009 08:18:54 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Web 1.0
This may seem like a snitty little tirade, but it's something that bothers me a lot. People use the term "web 2.0" to describe new, web based businesses, and I think it's just so much jargon.

I've suggested that Twitter is just the Internet equivalent of Sherlock Holmes' London Times, that Facebook is the bulletin board in the campus commons, that RSS is a throwback to flat files of the 80's.

Web 2.0 is an Edsel with fins.

This pretty much falls under my "there's nothing really new" cynical tirade. The more optimistic side of me knows that there really are new and innovative ideas, but let's face it, those ideas involve things like Velcro, magnetic levitation trains, or the backbone of the Internet itself.

But "Web 2.0" doesn't hit the world of dreams and wonder, unless you count "I wonder about that dream..." Just because you say you're doing something earth shatteringly innovative doesn't make it so.

Part of the problem is in the definition. The current wiki entry doesn't seem to give a solid explanation of what "Web 2.0" means. It seems to mean social networking or perhaps cool AJAX tricks (which is just JavaScript and XML tricks, kind of cool but not Velcro).

It gets back to my argument about tool users versus the folks who create the tools. The things we do on the Internet are amazing, but they are amazing because of the amazing invention of the Internet itself, or "Web negative 1."

I think that's what really offends me about the idea of Web 2.0 -- whatever the kids in the coffee shops are doing with JavaScript and social media, no matter how interesting and new it may seem, the web sites people are building today under the banner of "Web 2.0" don't come close to the true invention and impact of the web that was there 10 or 15 years ago, and is still there, albeit a little faster with a few more bells and whistles.

But bells and whistles do not make a fundamental shift in the universe.
Wed, 4 Feb 2009 22:08:37 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Net Neutrality question of Net Neutrality seems to be coming up more often lately, although that question seems to vary from person to person. Usually the question is, "What the heck is Net Neutrality?"

The Internet works because different providers cooperate with each other. Conquent uses Sprint for its hosting facility, Sprint in turn connects to other networks, so if you want to look at, the data will flow out our Sprint connection, across a couple other providers and eventually through the connection you pay for through your local provider.

We all connect to the Internet using different local providers; it may be a cable company like Comcast or Brighthouse, or it may be a phone company like Qwest or Verizon. And with faster wireless, it may be through the air on the cell network or WiMax.

It's this "last leg," or rather your personal connection, that all the fuss is about. Companies like Google pay a lot of money to the big boys like Sprint or AT&T to handle the huge amount of data they are sending out. The problem is that Comcast has no control over whether Google starts streaming video -- suddenly your connection could get slow because everyone else in the neighborhood is watching John Stewart throw a pie.

Now, that video may compete with Comcast's television service. So, Comcast might block Google's video service in order to promote their own service. Or they might charge Google to get priority, which means that Hulu would suck, but Google would be great.

And there's the rub. The innovation of the Internet hasn't come about because of back-room deals, it's because any service gets the same priority as any other service. Don't forget the cooperation part of the Internet -- private networks like AOL and CompuServe are gone because they couldn't be innovative enough to keep up with the "greater good" policy of Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality means that Google can start as a small potatoes search engine, and as it grows, it keeps building up its own infrastructure, with no graft to some cable company in Idaho or Florida. Google has created new tools, and new revenue models, and helped keep an entire industry healthy and happy.

Google may go away someday because someone else comes along with a more innovative idea than search, just as Google has knocked AltaVista off the map. But without the ability for anyone to float an idea out there and see how it plays, the Internet will calcify into a few big players. And THAT is why we need Net Neutrality.

If you're interested in whether your provider is choking your bandwidth (and not living up to what you're paying them for), you can check up on them with these tools developed by a coalition of universities and private industry (yes, Google was a big part):
Thu, 29 Jan 2009 12:14:45 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Getting clever with data feeds is a lot of data available out there on the Internet these days, and more and more of this data is being made available in various forms of feeds or APIs (Application Programming Interface). For kicks, we wrote a feed from Twitter to Conquent so you can see live results scroll by at and I also display my recent blog postings and Twitter postings through RSS on various portal pages.

But let's talk about the value for business.

Our accessible shopping comparison engine at pulls the literally millions of records from Shopzilla and other data sources and formats the results in a way that's easy for screen readers like JAWS or Window-Eyes to read as well as making it easier for mobility impaired, or vision impaired visitors without readers, to view the results.

The problem is with querying millions of items "on the fly." You can't do it efficiently -- even with solid bandwidth and good servers, pulling down millions of records takes time to process. And hitting the source data every time someone wants to see vacuum cleaners makes the user experience crawl and eventually lay down and die.

We worked around this problem with an "on-demand caching" of results. Shopzilla updates their system every 24 hours, so there's no reason to grab a set of data if we've seen it in the last 24 hours. The first time someone hits a category that hasn't been viewed in 24 hours, we fire up the process to grab the data, process it and cache it -- it's a little slower for that one person, but for the rest of the day it's lightning fast.

At the same time, we don't have to store unused categories -- if no one ever browses "tires" on, we haven't ever wasted bandwidth and processor time by grabbing something no one cares about. Granted, every time Google or MSN comes by they'll trip the category, but that works to our advantage creating a slow, background cache copy in the event someone DOES come by -- but if we don't already have it, the visitor will always get the most recent copy, regardless of whether we already grabbed it or not.

Building in these simple efficiencies makes the site a lot more scalable, faster, and keeps our content provider happier as we're not crowding them with unnecessary requests.
Mon, 26 Jan 2009 13:07:49 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Other Credit Crisis've heard a lot about the problems with the credit market -- banks aren't lending or, worse yet, they're pulling lines of credit back from good customers. I'm of the mind to play the drinking game "Do a shot every time you hear the phrase economic crisis," except for that kidney stone a couple months back...

There's another credit market we haven't been talking about, a huge slush fund of credit that's impossible to track, and one that's growing daily.

Net Terms.

Well, implied net terms. If we send out an invoice to a client, it says "Due on Receipt" unless we've made other arrangements with the client. Traditionally, however, our clients have treated that as "I'll pay in the next payment cycle, or in 30 days... or so." As long as we all expect it, it's okay; everyone knows when the money will show up, and they can manage their cash flow accordingly.

Only now clients and vendors are playing long-term credit games. For some reason not paying vendors is different than taking out a loan from a bank and not paying it. Sitting on a payable for 30, 60 or even 90 days is just fine for many business people, and the reality is the only ones who get paid on time are companies with big sticks like the banks.

As a business owner I obviously have problems with people not paying the company. We're pretty good about managing our debt, but most established companies carry a line of credit or credit card debt. If we have to tap that line of credit to make payroll or other expenses our clients are using our line of credit indirectly.

Even with the interest charges built into every contract, it's hard to recoup that cost of carrying the debt. As a business owner, you want to maintain a good relationship with your clients, especially the ones that spend (and therefore borrow) a lot of money. So, you use the interest charges as a last resort to get them to pay attention, and then waive them as part of the "thank you" for getting paid.

In the process, you discount the work or product you've already sold. It would be like knocking 20% off the invoice just because your client didn't meet the terms of your agreement. In other words, you punish your own company for the mistakes of others.

Now we're seeing a ripple effect where people aren't getting paid at all. If we have a client who slow pays us for an invoice, it causes us to slow pay the vendor we used for the project, which causes him to slow pay HIS vendors... You could be 6 degrees from the guy who didn't pay in the first place and still get screwed.

The game only works if the chain remains unbroken and everyone pays; as we get further and further out of sync from products delivered or services rendered, the chain is gets weaker.

The best solution is to have your clients secure credit directly before going into the project or delivering the product. The downside is that offering direct terms is often a deciding factor in choosing otherwise equal vendors.

Rather than making the obvious statement, maybe I'll just skip ahead to doing a shot.
Fri, 23 Jan 2009 08:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Broadband Inauguration of people watched the Inauguration online -- one content provider said that they had a peak of 7.7 million viewers of streaming content alone during the Big Day. Making it hard to get a real count is the fact that video from the inauguration ceremony and surrounding events was streamed all over the Web. Sites such as Hulu and Ustream were busy along with the sites of major news outlets.

And it was far from perfect., one of the most popular viewing destinations, had to cut off viewers and establish a wait list. It's like queuing up to peer in the peephole for the old kinescope.

I'm personally really surprised that CNN, of all the news outlets, had to resort to rationing bandwidth. We're in the era of huge data pipes and cloud computing. We certainly have learned a lot over the years about distributed processing from tools like the SETI desktop (search for intelligent life while not using your computer) to better file sharing systems like BitTorrent (I've been known to download movies in a fraction of the time it takes to view them).

But, even with the hitches, I believe the future of television is broadcast over broadband. It's just too damn convenient and ubiquitous -- I have more computer screens than I have televisions screens both at home and work, and the TV screens double as computer screens. On my recent trip to DC, I watched streaming movies from Netflix over my AT&T Air Card (cell modem) on my laptop and I never turned on the TV itself.

We need to get better tools for pausing and rewinding in the stream; information, even live information, needs to be digested. The moment is never "gone" in the era of constant recording, and computer broadcasting offers us a lot more ways to interact with the information.

I wonder, though, if January 20th, 2009 will be remembered for being the day the first black president took office, or for the day online broadcasting really came to life.
Thu, 22 Jan 2009 08:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
T-Mobile owns Magenta and Other Patent Stories had a discussion in the office yesterday about patent infringement, and a T-Mobile case from 2007 came up. Apparently they own magenta.

Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile to the USA) has used magenta (No. 395 52 630 "magenta" or RAL 4010) for designating its services and in its advertising since September 12, 2000 when it registered it on the basis of a proven secondary meaning for goods and services in the field of telecommunications.

Now, my feeling is that a patent is only as good as the money you have to burn defending it -- getting L'eggs to remove all their magenta packaging for their hosiery, or Taco Bell to change the color of the Bell is going to be a bit of a trick. But it does mean that they can create a nuisance, just as when McDonalds sued a member of clan McDonald for their tea shop in Scotland.

I've seen a lot of dumb patents awarded over the years. The "pop-under" which is basically two lines of JavaScript, was patented by a couple guys who didn't have anything to do with the development of JavaScript. It would be one thing if you created the JavaScript engine, but to write two lines of code and patent it?

After years of discussion and worry that it will have a chilling effect on the Internet they got the patents last June (7,386,555 & 7,353,229). It should be interesting to see them sue news agencies like CNN and entertainment portals like the Internet Movie Database which is owned by "One click" patent holder Amazon.

The "One Click" patent, by the way, is where you click on a link from an external website that takes you right to the checkout process on Amazon's website. Somehow they patented the simple HTML link from what I gather... I know it's more complicated than that... I really hope it's more complicated than that.

Then there's the whole world of genetic patents. When I went in for my CAT scan last month, I had to sign a release form allowing the docs to use any samples they got from me for medical experiments, and if they created some wonder drug based on my DNA, they would own my DNA.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, there's no way I could create a wonder drug from my colon, but on the other hand, if some competing pharmaceutical wants to pay me a million for a piece of my ass so they can try to make their own wonder drug, I should be able to do that, but now I can't.

I've been seriously considering applying for a process patent for the process by which an individual or group uses muscular pressure to exchange air in an organic chamber.

I get a nickel every time you take a breath or I'll sue.
Wed, 21 Jan 2009 08:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Risk-takers, Doers and Makers of Things seen a bit of this country, I know that not everyone was thrilled today with Obama taking office. But even his opponents have said what an incredible speaker he is, and, for me, it's a relief to have a President who actually sounds like a President.

But more than his oratory style, I find substance in what he says. In particular:
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
This is sums up so much of my frustration with my industry and business culture. When I talk about tools, or doing things half-way, it's not the tools, or even that I feel we should be working all the time -- it's that valuable work is hard. If you're truly creating value, you're taking the risks, you're fighting for something, and you're not taking the easy path just because it is there.

The brilliant work Conquent alumni have produced over the years may not be glamorous, and it may not have the eye of the media, but the work we have done has saved lives, created wealth, and has been rewarding it its own way simply for creating something never seen before, and knowing that the work couldn't have been done without the teamwork that made it happen.

I have seen too much effort wasted over the years by the soloist, whether the rogue programmer or independent business owner. The idea that "I know better" and that the easy path will work has led to failure time after time.

Conquent is celebrating it's 10th anniversary this year. It hasn't been easy, it hasn't been handed to anyone, and the work continues to change and grow as the company does. It is our own small team of risk-takers, doers and makers of things that has shared the dream, learned new things, and prospered because of it.ID#comments
Tue, 20 Jan 2009 11:47:03 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The noise of 20,000+ Twitter Followers got a number of new followers on Twitter over the weekend. What was odd about them was the large number of people a lot of them were following and, to a lesser extent, the number of followers they have.

I'm talking about people following 5,000, 10,000 or even more than 20,000 people. That's a good sized town; imagine if you could hear everyone's conversations in town at once. It would be deafening.

The cacophony of 20,000 tweets scrolling by is equally deafening. You might catch a snippet here and there, but if you're following that many people, it's probably pretty indiscriminate content. You might as watch every tweet with the letter "e" in it.

I think that the future of twitter is going to be people dipping into the stream with more sophisticated search tools. And I think that means that followers won't matter as much. I posted a link to my Microsoft Songmsith and while my followers showed up, I also got a lot of Twitter traffic from search results, both on and Google.

There are a lot of tools out there to help you manage larger groups of followers on Twitter, but the reality is that as your base of people you follow grows, the less they are YOUR people. I keep a couple scroller search tabs open for Bissell and Conquent to keep tabs on what people are saying to and about me on Twitter. I've replied to them, and they've replied to me, all without either of us following each other.

The only advantage you have to following someone is to allow them to Direct Message you. Personally, I try to let people contact me in other ways than a DM on Twitter -- use the Contact form on Conquent, leave a note on my blog, send email to the company. A DM is as personal as an email, and I don't hand out my email to everyone.

I plan to watch the Inauguration on Twitter using Conquent's scroller at, and with the millions of people in DC, and everyone else online, it's nice to know I can watch the flow, but I don't have to know them all personally.

Mon, 19 Jan 2009 17:34:23 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
30,000 feet, 500 MPH Suburban Strip Mall's not the suburbs I hate, or even McDonald's, per se, it's the overwhelming noise of mediocre homogeneity that is thrust upon you anywhere, anytime. I'm sitting on a Frontier flight between DC and Denver; every seat has a TV in the back -- a TV which I have no way to turn off. And on this TV runs constant advertising for new shows on TNT, FOX or some other international cable station.

If I have to see that American Idol ad one more time... Well, I can't say because Homeland Security would probably be on my ass.

It's not even the content; I'm not anti-TV, there are shows I absolutely go out of my way to watch. But it's not my choosing, just as the fact that I'm fine with burgers and cheap chinese food doesn't mean I want to be forced to smell the mall food court all day or have someone constantly walking by with samples of chicken on a stick.

Let me drop you in a mall in DC or Denver or Portland for that matter, and you'll have no clue where you are. Just some mall in America. Now, you're transported to a house in a residential development. Go ahead, step outside, and you still won't know where you are.

Now, let's put you on a plane and put a TV in front of you; you're not even at 30,000 feet going 500 miles an hour, you're just in a noisy room in the the 'burbs.

To me it's that "been-there-done-that" familiarity that is so wearing about TVs, fast food and generic architecture. Heck, generic design in general. You're not learning anything new in these familiar places, and you're not saying anything of interest when you design them.

The web has this problem, and as with many things on line, it has the problem the way a crack addict has a "dependency issue." Internet communications are all about creating something accessible by as many people as possible, so your message has to make sense in Brooklyn and Bangor.

I always push for creative design, but it's not easy. Not only do we fight the limitations of the boxy display, but with the limitations of web technology in general; it's not just the broad audience that waters down the message, it's the tools you use.

My rants against tools like Dreamweaver or Microsoft Songsmith aren't rants against the tools, they are rants against settling for what the tool can do and, worse yet, accepting the results of an unskilled tool user because the results are functional or near enough so.

You can't live on a diet of McDonald's despite what the company says (Supersize Me proved that one pretty well). Just as your body fails on a diet of poorly conceived food, you spirit fails on a diet of poorly conceived creations. We need more to thrive, and we should demand more.ID#comments
Sat, 17 Jan 2009 15:28:33 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Cellphones, toilets and the Inauguration's Friday, just a few days before the Inauguration and it's quiet in DC. Well, as quiet as the town gets. My guess is that the locals have fled and the visitors haven't shown up yet. But the visitors are coming -- I've heard they're expecting up to 5 million people are going to try to get down to the festivities on Tuesday. That means that if you got everyone in the entire state of Oregon, and then made a stop and picked up everyone in Idaho, you'd still be short a few hundred thousand bodies to make up the difference.

This is the modern age, and preparations for 5 million people include a new wrinkle: mobile communications. Think of it, 5 million people texting their friends with photos of 5 million people. I've seen estimates of more than 1.4 billion mobile messages are expected to be delivered nationwide on Inauguration Day...

This doesn't count all the people trying to call each other to figure out where they are in the crush of humanity. Tons of emergency calls are a given for the statistical certainty of injury or illness.

Which brings us mobile, mobile communications. The main providers have set up an encampment on the east end of the mall with temporary cell towers:

I don't know how they tie back into the rest of the network, whether they tapped into a trunk or if they have a satellited dish hidden behind the fence, but the fact that such a resource can be deployed on a temporary basis is pretty damn cool.

Another note on Inaugural Infrastructure comes from the "Everybody poops" department. The Great Wall of Portapotties has been built from the Capitol for as far down the Mall as I could see. Photos don't do it justice, the sheer volume of plastic boxes is almost overwhelming. Sure, they're building huge scaffolding to hold up huge TVs, the news centers are being built, but the line up of crappers, that's how you know you live in a modern age.

Fri, 16 Jan 2009 07:57:37 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The End of Days (of song): Microsoft Songsmith Example posted a link to a Microsoft SongSmith song in response to my blog, the Death of your Soul... and it's exactly what I feared... Actually, it might be worse...

I grabbed a copy for posterity, and for when the revolution comes so I have a torture device close at hand. Be prepared, it isn't pretty, but it is probably a perfect example of a Microsoft Songsmith "song" with a, um, "SongSmith cover" of Running with the Devil.

As a side note, I publish this blog in the hobbyist vein -- I don't expect to generate much of a stir, but I am surprised at the amount of traffic this topic has generated to the site. I think there are a lot of folks showing up here because they are looking for more information on how to use it and actually want to use the tool.

If you're one of those folks, leave a comment, or send a private note using our contact form. I really hope I don't hear a radio jingle using Songsmith, but I'd like to see how people can make something good from this soulless thing...
Sat, 10 Jan 2009 09:11:39 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Browser Bigotry usual routine in the morning is to get up, check my email, delete my spam, take a shower, read the news online, and check on some web stats. This morning I followed a link to on the old box at home, and it immediately redirected me to the Firefox download page.

Now, my first thought was that something had gone wrong with the reporting software I was using. There was no explanation, I was just on the Firefox page. My second thought was that they had done something almost clever -- build up traffic then force all traffic to a revenue share deal to make a couple bucks.

But, no, it was just that they didn't code for Internet Explorer 6. They didn't bother telling me that I needed a new browser for their site by giving me an alert or a pop-up page, instead they just forced me to use their browser.

W3C stats shows IE6 still at 19.6% of the market as of December 2008 (just last month). If we assume there are 1.5 billion people online, that means they are ignoring 294 million people. Granted, they aren't all going to be interested in what people are saying on Twitter about the weather, but, talk about limiting your audience right out the gate -- 20% BAM, gone.

It's like saying, "No darkies allowed at the bar." And forcing me away without explanation is just that, shoving me off into a corner.

There are legitimate reasons people may have older browsers, including they aren't allowed to install anything else but more importantly, personal choice. If I choose one browser over another, and certain functions don't work, then that's my call.

Your website should work for any major browser. That's the beauty of the web, I don't have to install anything; I just open a browser, click on links, and see the stuff I want to see. Sure, you might have to install plug-ins like Flash, but it's already installed in over 90% of the browsers, so writing for Flash is pretty safe.

I understand not liking the mess the browser manufacturers have made of CSS and JavaScript, but if you're a coder, learn to code within the limitations of the environment. We push a lot of functions onto the server, and we use HTML that may be "deprecated" by W3C standards, but works on all the major browsers.

It's a matter of respecting other people and the choices they make, or are forced into for reasons beyond their, and your, control. Anytime you insist they do something that's not part of the core goals of your website, is a time that you're forcing them away from you.
Fri, 9 Jan 2009 10:04:37 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Death of your Soul: Microsoft Songsmith THIS is what I'm talking about when I try to explain the difference between using a tool and creating something.
Songsmith generates musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice. Just choose a musical style, sing into your PC’s microphone, and Songsmith will create backing music for you. Then share your songs with your friends and family, post your songs online, or create your own music videos.
Create really, really, crappy background music for you.

You may have a song in your head, something beautiful and wonderful to share, and this monstrosity will make it sound like show tunes on the Love Boat. Rather than creating something new, this thing destroys your creativity and replaces it with soulless pap.

This is the same problem with desktop publishing, the camcorder, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver. The tools give you the appearance of having a talent, but it doesn't actually give you that talent.

Socrates said about writing (because he apparently didn't write), "To your students you give an appearance of wisdom, not the reality of it." Now, I'm not saying that the written word is bad, but we've had literally (pun intended) thousands of years to learn how to use the tool.

It's creative when you're the first one to use a tool a new way. Some of the early Internet phenomena were total crap, like the dancing hamster site. People went to these things in droves because no one had done it before, but the talent it took to create a few animated gifs and speed up a wave file was simple. Then the thousands of knock-offs made the Internet a terrible place.

I feel that it's our destiny in life to raise the bar, to constantly find new things, and deeper understanding of old things. Finding a simpler way to do something like adding chord progressions to a vocal track is great, but when you put it into a package like Songsmith, you create a superficial distraction.

Nothing new will come from Songsmith users, and they will be so self impressed, and so distracted by their little creations that they will never evolve, they will never learn new things about themselves or learn how to create real music. And, most likely, they will never learn what real music is.

Turn off the chord generator, and just sing.

Thu, 8 Jan 2009 11:08:30 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Creative Development or Developing Creatively? don't know, but "Creative Development" sounds like one of those undergrad courses you take to fill out your schedule, not a career, yet here I sit, at the head of a growing empire of which the divisions share the thread of "Creative Development."

I think the problem I have with the phrase is the same problem I have with describing what it is Conquent does -- "creative" is almost diametrically opposed to "development." When you think of a developer you think of a guy who builds houses, when you think of a creative, you think of someone with nerdy glasses doing applique.

Of course, when you think Internet developer, you think of a guy with nerdy glasses in a coffee house building applications...

It takes a special mindset to be able to apply creative solutions to dull problems, and still care that the dull problems are important. Following strict process and procedure doesn't solve problems, but ignoring it entirely can unravel an entire project.

Trying to explain this mindset to clients who "just want it built" is the challenge. People have come to Conquent over the years looking for a construction company, without an architect, without plans, and a fairly blurry vision of what they're trying to build.

We generally solve this by writing specifications, which I metaphorically refer to as "road maps." The nice thing about a road map is that you can take side trips and see other things along the way, but get back on course. Those side trips are the new ideas that come along as you develop something from nothing, and they are what make a project richer and more successful.

The problem with side trips is that it takes time and money, and you can't say "Well, you should have thought of that before." Creativity is an exploration, and discoveries aren't always pleasant...
Wed, 7 Jan 2009 09:45:33 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
The Myth of Wikipedia (or the Wiki-1400), let's talk about the myth of Wikipedia... The story goes that the Wiki is comprised of millions of tiny bits of data coming in from millions of people, and that the gestalt is an accurate document created by the hive mind of humanity.

The reality seems to be a little different. " fact the most active 2%, which is 1400 people, have done 73.4% of all the edits" according to Jimbo Wales, the face of Wikipedia in Raw Thought: Who Writes Wikipedia?.

Now, some argue that this number is based on the corrections made constant monitoring of vandalism and change backs, but in reality, it means that this "gestalt" is really crafted in the image of these prolific watchdogs, just as the PTA can ban Alice in Wonderland, so can the Wiki-1400.

At the same time, these 1,400 people can't possibly know everything, and a lot of the articles are started by the other 98% of the wiki population. Filtering is part of what makes the process work, and, honestly, most of us don't have time to sit online looking at recent changes on Wiki.

The Wiki is as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica (which oddly enough is based in Chicago). But knowing what we know about the Wiki-1400, maybe it's not a fair comparison. Wiki-zealots are always talking about the accuracy of the wiki, and comparing it to traditional encyclopedias for validation. If the Wiki-1400 are constantly striving towards that goal, then the first thing they would do is check the Britannica, and roll back the entry if it doesn't agree.

I think the real bottom line is that the Wiki-1400 share a philosophy, and philosophy more than anything else, filters what we believe to be true and what we believe to be false. You can cross reference and document evolution all you want, but a creationist won't agree.

I'm not suggesting that the Wiki-1400 have that overt of blinders, but blinders they must have, and knowing this, we need to check other sources of information than the Wiki when expanding our own knowledge.
Sat, 3 Jan 2009 12:20:11 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Online/Offline Sales -- is it really that bad? read that holiday sales this year were the worst in nearly 40 years (MSNBC), and I figured, heck, it's just like the blacksmith losing sales as horses went away, I'm sure they made up for it online. Unfortunately, online holiday sales were also the lowest since 2001 (Bizjournals).

But let's take a look at the real statistics here. Online sales, while lower, were still $25.5 billion between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's a drop of about a billion, nothing to sneeze at, but certainly not a complete dead-in-the-water scenario. And while the dire words of this being the worst shopping year in 40 years, we're talking around 1% in sales drop.

The problem is that we're still tied to the idea of growth economics. If you don't make more and more money every year, you're failing. The market gets jittery if you're making the same 25 billion a month, and drops you like a stone -- regardless of the fact that there was 25 BILLION in sales.

Growing a company is important, but making a reasonable profit, consistently, is more important than constant growth. Sure, some of these retailers are going to hurt big time, a lot of stores are going to close. However, I would argue that having a Best Buy, a Circuit City and a Fry's all on the same block isn't offering market differentiation, just unnecessary growth providing unnecessary waste of consumer spending on another box with crappy service.
Fri, 2 Jan 2009 15:31:16 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Is PayPal Tacky? posted this question on Linked In yesterday:
I have a client who wants to use PayPal rather than traditional credit card processing on his site. I think it's tacky, am I wrong?
Maybe I'm old school, but I've been online since 1994, and my feeling is that it cheapens the site.
I got a lot of answers, mainly from people who supported the idea of using PayPal. Most folks who responded seemed to lean on the side that PayPal is known, that it's secure and that they offer great customer service. It's apparently more expensive than traditional credit card processing, but it gives a known quantity, where your small company brand may not.

One of the things I find interesting is the assumption that I was talking about a small business, which pretty much underscores my belief that if you use PayPal, your customers will perceive you as a small company. It's also interesting to see that most of the people who really like it are the merchants themselves -- I'm still not sure what the perception of the average consumer is when they see a PayPal logo and get diverted from the site.

I try to filter the grandstanding people like to do while answering LinkedIn questions, but it's difficult to ignore the "I KNOW better than Thou" tone people put into their responses, while not providing a lot of foundation or credibility. For example:
Tacky? This is the 21st century. I've been online since before most people knew what a modem was, and hackers were judged on how well they could whistle at 300 baud. The only form of online payment I take for any transaction is via PayPal. I only make exceptions in rare situations, such as when using a service like Escrow.Com.
Which is great, except his title lists him as "ITIL Evangelist and Professional Cat Herder" and his resume is engineering and instructing at Learning Tree. It's not that the answer isn't valid, but this question is about brand perception, not the functionality of PayPal (or herding cats) and his assertion that the "only form of online payment" he takes is PayPal actually supports my assertion that PayPal is small business because the impression I get from his resume is that he doing small business.

The site in question is, which, honestly, I think is some of the better work Conquent has done over the years. We took a really bad site (I mean REALLY bad: take a peek at the archived original site) and brought these guys into the 21st century. They now run neck and neck with their main competitor, who they used to whollop in traditional space, and now have regained their place with a great online presence.

I think the best answer came from Mark Lowe, who lists himself as a CTO, Strategic Advantage Technology Solutions - Specialists in e-Business and e-Commerce. He summed up his answer with a very basic, common sense suggestion:
The ideal situation is not to accept either or, but both - the first rule of successful ecommerce is to make it as easy as possible for the customer to transact with the merchant. The customer is king and this should override any personal preference of the merchant.
So, what I need to go back to my customer with is the basic, common sense question: why do you want to take PayPal? Is it for the customer, or is it because you like it yourself?

Ultimately I believe that there is a place for PayPal and Google Checkout, but at the end of the day, I think that these services solve problems for a limited audience, and the question is always going to be, is it YOUR audience.

Quick follow-up prompted by the guy I derided for his Cat Herder title.

Apparently most of the major retails DO take PayPal, although they seem to minimize its visibility, anyone using the Amazon store technology (like Barnes and Nobel) will see the PayPal link.

So, the bottom line seems to be do both. Leave options open, and don't bring your own prejudices to the table.

Wed, 31 Dec 2008 10:15:59 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Old School Web Design Still Works might just be getting old, but I don't understand these kids these days... Oh, crap, it's sentences like that where you know you're getting old.

But my point is this -- web design is getting unnecessarily complex. Part of the problem is the need for innovation, this constant push to create something cool and new, which is great. But as you do that, you abandon the people who aren't keeping up.

@brampitoyo wrote "With JavaScript engine getting faster and faster, it is possible to put more complex AJAX feature on a site." This assumes that everyone is keeping their JavaScript engine up to date, which is a bad assumption.

Not only are there lots of old systems out there (which I find run new browsers really slowly) but there are new, mobile browsers that don't support all the bells and whistles of the most current JavaScript engine.

Then there's the fact that not all implementations of JavaScript are the same. Microsoft seems to always do things differently from the rest of the world, but Opera, Safari and Firefox all seem to treat style sheet/JavaScript combinations very differently. And I won't go into Chrome...

We did a site back in 2001 for the Portland Opera company using tables. Check it out on the archive at Everything still works in every browser I've checked, and it's all tables and GIF images. When you click into an individual show you'll see up to four images layered on top of each other in table cells -- the code may be deprecated by the W3C standards, but not by the real-world.

Albert Einstein wrote "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." So much of what we do in code is theory, otherwise you wouldn't hear technical people say, "It shouldn't do that" so often. It's still a matter of knowing who's going to see what you're working on, and guessing how they're going to break it.

Cutting edge is cool, but that sharp edge can cut your nose off if you're not careful.
Tue, 30 Dec 2008 13:17:24 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Domain Squatting read an article today about Verizon winning a $33 million lawsuit over a company that has been using domains like and to grab traffic and spoof users (Verizon awarded $33.15m against cybersquatter).

People have been fighting over domain names since the beginning. In the early days it was free to register domain names, so folks were getting domain names for their dog, or refrigerator, or grabbing up brand names with the idea that they could sell them to the companies who owned the brand.

Free went out the window (and with a monopoly and at $75 a year Network Solutions was making serious bank) and ICANN made a very simple rule -- if you own the trademark, or if you have demonstrable prior use, you can take the domain name away from someone.

Under this rule, Sting was able to get his domain name from a fan, but Madonna apparently had some trouble with the Catholic Church and prior use. Of course Sting, Madonna and the Catholic Church all have a lot of money to put together their cases before ICANN.

Free has come back in a fashion -- OnlineNIC got all those domain names by being a registrar -- they could register them for a week without paying their ICANN fees, drop them and then re-register them. Of course, with $7 registration from GoDaddy, squatting (some say "speculating") is a pretty cheap game. We have a client who paid $26,000 for a domain name, just because he thought it sounded good, not for trademark reasons.

What made the Verizon lawsuit interesting was that they got a judgment for $50,000 for each of the 633 domains Verizon claims were created specifically to be confused with legitimate Verizon brands, totaling up to that $33.15 million. That is, the got a judgment against OnlineNIC, but they can't actually find anyone who works for the company.

Ironically, Verizon got what they could have with a simple ICANN complaint, that is, they got control of the domain names. I say "ironically" because they've parked all those domains with Network Solutions, who runs advertising on parked domains, which is exactly the complaint Verizon had with OnlineNIC. The end game is the same, only it's a friendly company getting the ad revenue instead of the obscure company Verizon sued.

Mon, 29 Dec 2008 07:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Green Chri$tma$ Freberg pretty much got kicked out of the advertising inustry for this one. Remember that this was 1958, even pre-Mad Men era.

Ignore the video, but enjoy the audio (it's what I could find this morning).

Wed, 24 Dec 2008 11:00:39 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
QA 101 are becoming increasingly complex with the addition of AJAX controls, cloud computing, and a growing list of data sources to drive a single page. There is a lot to keep track of when creating these sites, but some of the basics still apply.

Check your work.

It seems to be a stupidly simple piece of advice, yet it's amazing how often I run into problems from a simple lack of looking. This is QA 101, and as with a lot of basics we learned earlier in life, we've forgotten them as we get more sophisticated.

I don't know how often people assume that they wrote their code correctly, so things should work and they don't bother looking at the page in a browser. I just ran into this with one of my programmers who moved a site, and forgot to include the file that told the server what to do with the code. The whole site was printing source code, not pretty HTML.

Then there was a more subtle problem I saw with incompatible browsers. We had a programmer who wrote some nasty things about the client in the code thinking it will never show up. Except it was in the source frameset, and the client visited the site with a browser that didn't support frames (they still exist).

And this isn't just a technical issue -- turn on your spell check before sending an email but be sure to READ the email before hitting send. We wrote a proposal for a warehouse system, and the guy accepted the spelling correction blindly. Apparently we ended up bidding on a whorehouse system instead.

Fortunately we generally check each other's work at Conquent. It's better to find these things out before the client does, but it's even better to find it or for yourself before publishing it.
Tue, 23 Dec 2008 11:13:40 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Portland Snow doesn't snow very often in Portland, and while I try to keep this blog on topic for business, I thought I'd post a couple quick images here as I'm snowed in today...

Sun, 21 Dec 2008 14:01:57 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
Get some return on that web traffic click or 3 minutes
We're busy people; we don't have time to figure things out. If we can't find what we're looking for in a few easy clicks, or a few quick minutes, we'll move on and try to find it someplace else.

Remember, if your visitor doesn't figure it out, you've wasted an opportunity, and if you paid good money to drive that person to your site, you wasted your money. Just because they showed up means nothing unless you're making money.

Sites that make it really clear what you're supposed to do are the most effective. A big "Start Here" and a simple 1, 2, 3 series of forms that don't confuse and don't frustrate are obviously preferable to a website that some programmer said, "They'll figure it out..."

And that's because most people won't figure it out.

A quick primer on web ad models
There are three basic advertising models on the web:

  • Cost Per Impression: You pay every time someone sees your ad
  • Cost Per Click: You pay when someone clicks on your ad
  • Cost Per Action: You pay when someone completes an action on your website

    You are ultimately looking at your final cost per action which means you need to know what that action is. If your website makes money from selling a product or service, that action is a purchase. If you're selling advertising on your site, then you need to get that visitor to look at as many pages as possible and, preferably, click on those ads.

    The trick is to balance the model you're paying for traffic against your acceptable cost. So, if one advertising source has a really high conversion rate (everyone who clicks buys) you might want to pay on a per click model. Alternatively, if you get really high click through, maybe pay on an impression model.

    But you have to watch and learn and adapt as you implement your plan. You need to modify your advertising to drive more qualified traffic and you need to modify your site to maximize the return on that traffic.
    ID#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2008 07:47:31 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator I think they have a backup... bought One's and Zeros -- Don't Let it Become a Big Zero
    Your entire investment is electronic when it's on the web. If you pay $30,000 for a spiffy, cool, fantastic web based program, you don't want to lose it just because someone accidentally wiped a hard drive.

    Getting a copy of the site on a CD usually doesn't do you a lot of good. Don't forget, web applications aren't static. Much of what you see on a day to day basis comes out of a database. Beyond that, much of what makes your website work depends on other programs that may or may not be available when your web developer disappears off the face of the earth.

    Your best bet is to have a live backup that synchronizes a couple times a day to a server you can check up on. It's even better if you can have that backup server sit in your office so that, in an absolute worst case scenario, you can pick up the box, go to a new ISP and be up and running again.

    Get the passwords
    I don't care if you have no idea what an SSH shell is, or an FTP server, for that matter, make sure you get all the passwords for all the services you're paying for. If something goes horribly wrong with your developer, you can hand the cryptic list to another developer and get out of trouble.

    Remember: letting your web developer control everything means your web developer controls YOU as well.
    Thu, 18 Dec 2008 10:44:08 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    I'd love to have that problem's still a problem
    I hate it when people "I'd love to have that problem" when I ask "What will you do when 1,000 people all show up on the site at once?"

    When business picks up it doesn't mean the money will be there to solve the problems you don't want to deal with now. The truth is that it's easier to deal with problems when you don't have 1,000 people banging on the door demanding products or services, or worse yet, their money back because you can't deliver.

    You need experienced partners
    Just because someone knows more than you do, it doesn't mean they know anything important. In the web world the classic mistake is assuming that some kid who can bang out a website should be put in charge of your entire web enterprise because he can ramble on for hours about AJAX controls and because he got a snippet of his code posted on Slashdot.

    Your cousin's sister's kid might be a whiz at building cool looking sites, but you need someone who knows what works in the market, not in DIV layer. You need an architect with business experience AND technical experience to bridge the vision of the company with the realities of creating a deliverable product.

    You can avoid having to rebuild your web site if you start out right and address the problems before they arise. The right partners will help you do that, just as the right legal staff will keep you out of jail and the right accountant will keep the IRS off your back.

    Completely rebuilding the site may not cost much in dollars, but it's going to cost a lot in time and credibility. You're going to lose potential customers and business partners before you ever get to the redesign if the site doesn't live up to expectations.
    Wed, 17 Dec 2008 15:30:42 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    The [un]importance of statistics (un)importance of statistics

    @CarriBugbee took a look at my note about creating a Conquent branded url shortener and mentioned a service she uses that gives her tracking. Which is great -- the Conquent version has tracking, too, but only for internal use.

    But this brought up a point that I've been unable to make for years -- people don't care about statistics. They'll say they do, they'll demand statistics, they'll pour over the details, but at the end of the day, they won't make a single, substantive change in their plans based on statistics.

    Much of what we do in the entrepreneurial world is based on faith. Faith that we know something other people don't know and that facts are deceiving. Faith that even though everything seems to be pointing in the other direction, we're headed the right way.

    I've found that when my clients are faced with cold hard facts, be they statistics or surveys or focus groups or whatever, they tend to rationalize why the numbers are wrong. Sure, they may authorize some minor tweaks to a media plan, but overall business direction usually remains the same no matter what.

    I'm not saying that statistics aren't relevant; to the contrary, you can't make a firm decision without the facts. What I'm saying is that these statistics are usually irrelevant to most business people. Unless a client is willing to let go of the emotional or political investment they have in their project, statistics will just be a point of argument, not a change in direction.

    Tue, 16 Dec 2008 22:36:17 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Don't be a tool of viral marketing are a lot of brands that have taken over the meaning of the product. We've had Jell-o and Band-Aids instead of gelatin and bandages for years. We now have Google instead of searching (it was Yahoo, but these things change).

    Now there are a lot of people trying to grab hold of simple web activities and make their brand synonymous with simple technology. Just as AOL was once email, Wordpress is now blogging, and my favorite snippet of technology that's become a brand is the TinyUrl concept.

    Every time I post something on at and announce it to the world, I promote Wordpress. Every time I shorten an URL using TinyUrl from something like to I'm promoting TinyUrl.

    Much better for my brand is to use or shorten my URL to

    You may argue that developing such technology locally is expensive and "why reinvent the wheel?" First off, most of this technology isn't that tough to build. We're talking web tools we could have built back in 1997. And we did build them in 1997.

    Secondly, you nick the skin of your brand slightly each time you send some of your audience through tinyurl or to Like the matador and the bull, you slowly lose your own brand integrity and people see more value in the tools you don't own than in the things you're trying to promote.

    Install tools on your server when you can. And look at the technology you're "micro-promoting" to see how valuable that tool is, and how easy it would be to have your own version or copy. It may not be for everyone, but if you're serious about building your brand, don't tear it apart with a million tinyurl cuts along the way.

    I've been asked by a couple people how hard it was to set up, and the answer was, kind of, but not impossible. Which led to the obvious question, can we do it for others?


    Pretty much anything you see us do at Conquent is something we're able and willing to do for others. With our Quickieweb Technology, Quickelist Email Service, and a wide range of complex programming projects (e.g. GMS Products, Tech Hero and American Dream Planner), we've got the tools, you just need to let us know what you're looking for.
    Tue, 16 Dec 2008 15:53:53 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Emails, discussions, blogs, wiki and web content HR person, Kristen, asked me for a blog the other day. This brought up the question of "What IS a blog, really, and why do we all need them?" I know, old question to a lot of people. But it spurred an interesting conversation about different kinds of online communication. Let's review quickly:

    We do a LOT of communication via email. We often use our email as document storage systems ("Let's see... I know I sent that word doc to Bob back in May... of '06..."). With open copies sent on the cc line, email acts as a discussion board, helping bring people together to work out ideas.

    Email is selective -- you decide who you're sharing information with, and it's one of the few Internet based systems that doesn't get spidered by Google. It still lets your ideas out "in the wild" if someone decides to forward your note, but it's like having a conversation in the office, not standing on the stage with a microphone.

    Discussion Groups
    At one time the Internet was filled with chat rooms which in turn evolved into threaded discussion groups. I'm not entirely sure why these seem to have fallen out of favor, but I still see them when I'm looking up technical answers.

    The nice thing about threaded discussions is that you can come in late to the game and see replies directly below previous comments. Sometimes you get a back and forth going -- this conversation can wander off into its own corner and you can read the direct responses to the original comment.

    I'd like to see Wiki's discussions become threaded, and maybe that's out there somewhere...

    Teagan in my office pointed out that Blogs are linear; that is to say, blogs are a good place to record things as they happen. This goes well with my idea that blogs are like open journals -- be careful what you put in your journal if EVEYONE can read it.

    I think of blogs as a great place to sum up ideas or things you're working on. Nothing is ever really a finished work, but the thing about blogs is that you can go back over time and look at the evolution of an idea and see how it's changed.

    If blogs are linear and provide history, wiki's are "what's true now." I like the fact that wiki's have a history component, but the change history for a document is very different than a series of different documents on the same idea.

    Wiki's are a great place for clearly thought out documentation that's constantly changing. We have our project management system hooked up to a wiki so projects and clients can have a back story -- who is this client, why are we doing this project and what are some of the things we need to know to stay out of trouble? It's a great way to keep documents in a semi-public place (that wiki isn't available outside the company).

    We're also looking at setting up a wiki to let our experts within the company document important aspects of their area of expertise. For example, Kristen wants to be able to provide documentation about the importance of staffing and Human Resources, and this may tie into our accessibility division where they co-edit documents on accessibility and staffing.

    Web Content
    But let's not forget good old fashioned web content. Your website will always have information that changes, but there are things that aren't open for everyone to edit and aren't always changing.

    On the other extreme, your website should include "machine generated content" or data driven content. We still need a new word... there's all that data that gets processed, like order information and shipping status. This is content, and shouldn't be ignored, and in a sense, it closes the loop as it can generate new questions, new discussions, a blog or two, and update to the wiki, and a change to the company content.

    Tue, 2 Dec 2008 12:06:27 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    You Designed for Print First web is cheaper to change
    Entrepreneurs often miss a great opportunity when starting out. They usually start by getting business cards and 5,000 flyers printed up which talk about their product or service, but they created the text in a vacuum.

    After they start handing out the flyers, they realize they need to change some key copy or images, only they still have 4,500 flyers left that they're going to have to throw away.

    A better approach is to build your website first. You have an opportunity to have as many people as you can grab proof your work and making changes only costs the labor. Once the copy and supporting images have been tested online, the print collateral follows.

    Print and Web are different
    The web is limited in what it can show. Print can use gold foil, the web can do animation, but not visa versa. Make sure your basic elements, like your logo and product imagery, will work in both places.

    Be sure to keep in mind that web graphics are lower resolution than print graphics. If you want to use something from the web in print, your designer will need to create images for the website at print resolution, and then scale them down to the web.
    Thu, 28 Aug 2008 08:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    You let someone else register your domain name domain is more important than your phone number
    Your domain name is extremely valuable and irreplaceable. You can lose it forever if you're not careful, along with all that money you've put into marketing and printing. And you won't get a friendly "The Domain Name has changed" message like you do when your phone number changes.

    YOU need to register your domain name, not your web developer or your consultant. You can have them walk you through the process, but you need to do it yourself, because if you don't, then you may well be developing a brand around a domain that your consultant owns, not you.

    Your developer has a big stick if you have a dispute and they control your domain name. They control your email, your web presence, and your ability to be in business, all because of a $10 a year domain name.

    Keep your old email address
    You need to make sure that you keep the email address you used to set up the domain, so that as it comes up for expiration, you'll get notified. There's nothing worse than finding your site, and your business, are down because someone forgot to tell you to pay the registrar.

    Of course they can't send you information for how to renew your domain if the only email address they have for you is

    Buy it for a long time
    Getting a domain name for 10 years is cheap in the grand scheme of things. Heck, you can get 100 year registrations. If you buy it now, and tie it down for virtually forever, you'll never run the risk of it expiring when you aren't watching.

    Wed, 27 Aug 2008 08:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    You figured .biz, .info, .us would work fine[This is part of a series I'm putting together for a talk at the OTBC about classic web blunders.]

    Whose business are you promoting?
    You've decided it's time to start that new company. You've got a name all picked out, let's call it Widget Co. Unfortunately, is taken. So are and But, is available.

    So you buy the name, invest in business cards, letterhead and advertising. You get out and start networking, leaving voicemails, and talking to anyone who will listen about your company.

    You don't know why that VP of Biz Dev you met at that chamber meeting never sent you that email he said he would send. You know the email with his product requirements so you could give him a proposal for his next big purchase.

    Unfortunately, the guys who own are in pretty much the same work you are, and they start getting random hits on their website, and random phone calls for work they can do. And they get the email to from that VP of Biz Dev, and THEY bid the work.

    Make it easy
    You're better off changing the name of your company than having a similar domain name to a competitor.

    You don't want to use tricky misspellings that could become someone else's domain or overly long domain names. Real words are best, but go ahead and invent a word if you need to. It worked out pretty well for Verizon and Comcast.
    Tue, 26 Aug 2008 15:02:24 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    What's after the Integrated Circuit? was having this discussion on the plane with the guy in the seat next to me the other day. He "provides information to the intelligence community" and he had pretty sophisticated sounding set up to allow his people to work remotely. Of course, I've had the ability to use my machine at work from just about any computer I sit down at for years, but we'll let that slide.

    His point was that computers have stagnated. His argument is that we went from tubes, to transistors, to integrated circuits and stopped there. And, perhaps that's true, although what they're doing with integrated circuits now is amazing compared to what we had in the 80's.

    But, my point was the innovation is happening in other areas. Look at screen technology with high definition, or the stuff coming down the pipe like flexible LCDs. Or storage capacity...

    The main place I think things are exciting is in how much information is zipping around and how you can have your main systems sitting someplace other than on your desktop. Web pages are something we almost take for granted, and forget that that page has to sit on a server someplace and that you need to be able to grab that information quickly through countless wires and switches.

    I'm literally transferring gigabytes of data in the background today as I write this. I decided to sync up my music library at the office with the one on my home machine and found dozens of albums not in both places, so I just copy it over the Internet, probably about four gigs. Remember that 20 megabyte hard drive that would hold more information than you would ever need?

    But then there's the fact that I can log into my machine at home from my phone, queue up some music and listen to it on my cell phone. Look how tiny that thing is that I hold in my hand, but where the technology that makes it all work is spread out all over the place.

    Heck, just think about cell phones for a second. I've got a bluetooth device, which if I hit the button on the side of my ear, it will let me say a name, which is transmitted to my phone, which in turn dials a number to a big switching center someplace out over the airwaves. The amount of computing going on isn't limited to a single device, but the collection of devices that all act as a single unit.

    Then there are Massive Multiplayer Online games (MMOs). That's a thing you could never do without the combined power of all the thousands of machines tied into a single game where everyone is sharing their processing, memory, and other local resources to tie into a big server that sends the game around the world in realtime.

    I'm just surprised at how he could think that advances are slowing...

    Fri, 15 Aug 2008 08:59:41 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Intelligent life is out there (but it's bugger all down here on earth) was skimming through the headlines on Google News and came across Paul Allen's latest spending exercise: the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) designed to look for signals from other stars.

    Now, I'm a big sci-fi fan. I've run the SETI desktop application to help see if there are signals coming in from other stars, and I truly believe that life is not unique to our rock. What I'm beginning to believe, however, is that our definition of Intelligent Life is not out there.

    Hell, I'm not sure we have even defined what Intelligence is down here.

    I've found that so many of our assumptions and motivations are hardwired to our evolution, and that most of the things we strive for are based on keeping the species moving forward. Not just the species, but our little genetic niche of the species.

    We're amazingly xenophobic, despite the desire to swim with dolphins, we're more likely to squish a spider or shoot a cougar. Anthropomorphism is a way to cope with our disdain for things that are different, and as soon as Sparky pulls his lips back and menaces our children, it's time to put him down; he's not the cuddly creature we thought he was.

    Oh, and then there's that whole Catholic/Protestant/Moslem/Jew thing. If you've got the wrong skin or wrong belief system, you aren't even really human. We can justify indiscriminate killing for variations on the same foundation of faith.

    I think one of the phrases I hear most often is, "I just don't understand..." If you don't understand your neighbor (and I can argue both sides of "can't" and "won't" on that topic), then how the hell are you going to understand the signals from a planet around another star with something that doesn't have anything in common with us?

    Oh, and I'm not trying to say I'm somehow exempt from this understanding thing. There are plenty of people who, for the life of me, make NO SENSE whatsoever. I have to assume, on some logical plane, that they have a semblance of intelligence, but it doesn't reflect what I consider to be intelligence...

    Then again, I'd rather see Paul Allen spending money on radio telescopes than the Blazers...
    Wed, 13 Aug 2008 23:04:30 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Subject Matter Experts Talking Other Subject Matter of the titles I've given myself over the years is "Geek Translator." I'm pretty good at talking about the technology we develop at Conquent in business and marketing terms. Perhaps being the metaphor king helps. Even so, once you remove all the tech jargon, and maybe substitute a little business jargon, it's still tough to be able to get non-technical people to understand issues with technical delivery.

    I do a lot of other kinds of translation, too. The print world talks entirely differently than the web world, the web world talks differently than the video world, the video world talks differently from the motion-animation world. All are visual media, but they all have their own jargon and ways of doing things.

    A great project is one where everyone understands and respects each other's skills and challenges. If you have a web developer who speaks a smattering of print design, but he knows he's NOT a designer, your designer and web developer will get along great.

    Traditionally the project manager has to be the translator. Then the project manager translates to the account manager, who in turn translates to the client. Things get lost in translation and work has to be redone, but if the creative person can't translate clearly directly to the client, there isn't much you can do about it.


    I envision a world where we cross pollinate language and skills more. The graphic designer needs a programmer "trail buddy" to bounce things off of, just as the programmer needs a designer to talk about stuff with. Think of a revolutionary cell network, where a programmer knows a web developer and a designer, and they're all constantly learning each other's language.

    I've had this basic model at Conquent since the beginning. It makes everyone better at dealing with the different aspects of the project, and it makes everyone better at dealing directly with the client.

    Ultimately I still believe that you need a person to be simultaneous project and account manager. Project management is it's own service, and coupled directly with the client, it can become much more of a communications focal point, and less of a top-down management model.
    Mon, 11 Aug 2008 17:06:04 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    The Totalitarian Regime of Apple's an article on CNET at entitled Apple boots $1,000 app from App Store. The gist of it is that Apple is being inconsistent and uncommunicative about removing programs from the store.

    If you're not familiar with it, the App Store is where third party developers can sell their iPhone applications. The programs must first be approved by Apple and apple keeps 30% of the sale.

    Obviously, they hold all the cards -- they own the hardware, the operating system, the development tools, and the distribution network. This is great from an old-school, IBM business model, but Apple doesn't sell to Lockheed Martin suits, Apple sells to the avant-guard, open source, artistic world.

    Apple controls 70% of all digital music sold online and could control a quarter of all music sold in the world by 2012 (see In a creative world where content and copyright philosophies are changing, it's appalling to see so much of the world's creativity locked up in one box.

    It's a weird psychological twist. Here's the anti-establishment community saying "We want to build new ways of living and doing business -- where's my iPhone?" I can guarantee you that there would be a mob with torches and a battering ram if anyone other than Apple tried to pull Apple's crap.

    Microsoft created a great, open platform. I can buy programs straight from the company that wrote them and I can use my own music software (and organize my files the way I want). The Windows environment created the PC revolution by encouraging innovation, which is why Mac is still only 5% of the desktop market.

    Hell, Apple's very success with the iPod is because they were able to develop an interface on Windows. Microsoft doesn't make a dime off music sales through iTunes on Windows -- I seriously doubt Apple would have allowed that to be reversed.

    My point is this: Apple is evil. And like anything completely evil, it's seductive. But get past the clean lines, the pretty interface and the "At least it isn't Microsoft" and fight the totalitarian regime.

    To get further input on this idea, I also posted the question to my Linked in account as follows:

    Why do creative, anti-establishment thinkers choose Mac?
    Apple runs a totalitarian monoculture. It's more like IBM than Google. Hell, Microsoft is more like Google than Apple is like Google. And yet, with the App Store showing how they will at a whim remove software (for which developers paid to develop) and the meglomaniac control of music via iTunes, they continue to prove to be an anti-creative, anti-free thinking, anti-open development platform.

    So why do open source, social networkers choose to be duped by the Corporation?

    Some of those answers are included below.ID#comments
    Sun, 10 Aug 2008 10:31:28 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Oversimplifying how people work'm not a big fan of describing things in extremes, but, heck, I'll do it anyway.

    There are two extremes in how people work. On one end you have the people who want very specific tasks which fit well within their skill set. No surprises, do the job, and you're done. On the other extreme, you have people who believe they can do ANYTHING and are constantly outside their existing skill set trying to learn new things.

    I don't want to work with people in either of these extremes. Doing the assigned task is dull work and you while you don't get any bad surprises, you don't get any pleasant ones, either. You have to push your limits to learn and grow and make discoveries.

    But, I hate working with the guy who thinks he can do anything because he constantly fails. You're always getting bad surprises with this person, and rarely pleasant surprises. Getting the job done sometimes requires finding someone who can actually do it. And one of the things this person never seems to learn is that there are some things you just aren't going to be good at.

    Delivering creative services is a balance between being creative and actually delivering a product at the end of the day. I think the over confident, over creative type forgets about the day-to-day work involved in delivering, and the plodder forgets about pushing the boundaries and being creative.

    Sat, 9 Aug 2008 08:29:02 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    crowdSPRING got a note from @crowdSPRING in response to a posting on Twitter about needing a designer. She then forwarded the link to me --

    I took a peek at it, and posted to twitter that crowdSPRING wasn't going to do it for me as an employer. I was then pretty impressed that Angeline of crowdSPRING was trolling twitter well enough to not only find leads (Carri) but to see me talking about her company and followed up with me.

    So I wrote her a nice email explaining what I didn't like about the service, which I'll elaborate on here.

    The quick answer to what I didn't like is that "the kind of project you want to start" didn't have my kind of project. If I want web, I'm going to need more than a pretty picture, I need HTML (and actually, in my case, I need a Flash person).

    The cateogries are extremely limited to

    Graphic design
    - Logo
    - Logo AND Stationery
    - Stationery (letterhead, business card, envelope)
    - Illustration
    - Print design
    - PowerPoint

    Web design
    - Website (uncoded)
    - Icons and Buttons
    - Ad banner

    - Custom photography
    - Photo retouching

    I believe it's commodity service as opposed to, say, which is for much more custom development. But because it's so limited I'm going to be much more likely to use other services and not revisit crowdSPRING.

    But then, there are lots of people out there who just need a logo and your service will probably work great for them. The caveat I posted was "as an employer" but for someone just starting their SoHo company, it's probably just fine.

    2008-08-08 16:23
    Hi Michael!
    I was going to reach out to your input via email, but as you've posted your thoughts in the Blog, I thought it'd be nice to comment here.

    First off - I really hope they call you "The Bissellator." That's pretty amazing. My big bad wolf name at work is "Angelineasaurus Rex."

    Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way, here goes..

    Thank you, thank you, thank you times a hundred for your input. Just so you (and the whole internet) know, we are an infant company. Our staff of 8 is very proud to have over 4,000+ creatives participating on our site's projects.

    We call ourselves the creative marketplace because we have plans - big ones.

    Eventually, we want crowdSPRING to be a place where you can get your entire web site (including Flash and coding), a commercial, music, basically anything creative. But - given our small staff, there are only so many hours in a day, and we want to work on making everything super stellar in the design area before branching out.

    So, long story short - Thanks for mentioning us and checking us out! It's one more person that knows about us, and that makes me smile. Hopefully we'll be on our way to comprehensive creative service greatness.

    Best of luck with your design search!ID#comments
    Fri, 8 Aug 2008 15:30:52 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Creative Services for the New World I keep exploring what I want to do with my next steps, I'm thinking a lot about how to bring together all the random, and not so random, creative energy that I see flowing around on the Internet, and the evolution of an ad hoc agency is forming in my mind.

    There are two extremes for how people offer their services. The first is the JWT model of corporate agencies. Even the 10-15 person companies follow this model to some degree. You get cubbied into a box, and your workflow and process are at the whims of management. And there's a LOT of management -- creative directors, account managers, partners.

    The large agency model attracts work, but it churns through people like the meat grinder that the Agency world is.

    Then there is the independent contractor, otherwise known as the feast or famine model. As annoying as a creative director is, you get direction in an agency model, and you get cross fertilization from other disciplines.

    Working alone tends to stagnate your skills, and you're so busy taking care of billing and getting new business, you don't have much time for anything other than the task at hand.

    As for building new business, the only people who know you are people you already know -- you get work from word of mouth, repeat business or cold calling. The odds are slim to none that a decision maker will wake up one morning and say, "Hey! I need to hire so-and-so to do a project today!" And while social networking is changing this to some degree, the cacophony of voices gets in the way of your success.

    Corporate decision makers know Wieden+Kennedy, JWT, and cmd. If they're an Intel or an HP, they're going to try branded agencies before some independent contractor.

    I recently wrote a blog entitled It's the Brand, Baby. What I'm thinking now is that we need to create an umbrella brand -- if we can get 50-100 independent creative under the same brand, we can start generating some serious traction.

    The problem is account management. If you have a bunch of independent contractors bringing together work, they all want to manage the client. But as a client evolves and needs more services (graphic design to web to photography to video to viral marketing), the initial contractor may not be the best person to manage the account.

    In the independent world everyone is an account manager, but no one is. It's always the part time job of the designer, the writer, or whoever got the client. I want to find a way to provide account and project management services without causing a lot of agency friction with a group of independent, free thinking, individuals.

    Account management is based on relationships, which means keeping involved with the client. Project management is resource management and requires a boss to make final decision and keep things on track, which is good for the client, good for the project, but can be painful for the creative-type.

    There are lots of ways this model could be implemented. It could be completely virtual or it could have one big office space. Even if everyone signs off on using the brand, the question is to what extent, and how much variation are they allowed?

    So, options may include
    • License the brand
    • Coop agency space
    • Social network style membership website
    • Project by project contracts
    And there I stop... I need to talk with independent creative types to get an idea of what they want and what they can stomach. Again, ownership of the client, the tug of war of money... That's going to be tough.


    Tue, 5 Aug 2008 14:31:15 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Reverse Anthropomorphism came up with the term "reverse anthropomorphism" yesterday while writing about Time (click here to see that blog). The idea is that while we often put human traits on non human things, we also tend to adopt non-human traits.

    I ended up asking the LinkedIn crowd what they thought and I got a number of great answers. D.L. Kirby responded with "Dehumanization" which, while good, it had a negative stigma that I was trying to avoid. I don't think that saying "the brain is like clockwork" or saying it works like a computer necessarily dehumanizes us.

    I got a few responses for Objectify, or Objectification. On its own, the word works, but, again, I think that we have a lot of baggage with the word Objectification.

    John Riutta suggested "antikemophism" which is a great word, with no baggage, but it kind of slides off the front of the brain. I suppose I shouldn't complain too much about the over intellectualization of the response -- you're not going to generate conversations with people about anthropomorphism at the truck stop.

    Toby Younis suggested "anthromechanization" which in turn led me to Mechomorphism. I liked the psychology student's concept of "ratomorphism", but I think it only applies to people who emulate rats or machines. Now that's a hell of a a big topic to explore in our post modernist world....

    Top honors go to Matthew Vaughn for "Emulation" which is by far the most appropriate word. It's exactly the right word, already exists with no other baggage. We emulate the Internet in our social networking structures.

    After so many interesting twists and turns, "Emulation" is almost a letdown -- I mean, I wanted something NEW, something shiny this big, new world we're creating everyday. Isn't that what we do online? Create new words?

    Ultimately I have to say it's a good thing to know that the English language still works for us, and we didn't have to make up a word to describe the changing (or maybe not so changing) world.

    Update as of August 5
    I just got the suggestion Xenopromorphization from Jeff Ello. Wow. Great word. Not nearly as boring as Emulation, no baggage, and worth a HUGE number of points in Scrabble.

    I might have to revise the winner of the word!ID#comments
    Mon, 4 Aug 2008 19:41:32 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    The End of Time I recall correctly, it was between 1500 and 1510 that Peter Henlein of Nuremberg, Germany, invented the spring-powered clock. This was an amazing invention, and allowed us to know the answer to "what time is it?" wherever we may be.

    Its main benefit was to revolutionize navigation -- with reliable time and the sun or stars, you always know where you are, and a new era of exploration and trade began.

    But as we entered the mid 1800's, we became obsessed with time. "Efficiency experts" were born, train schedules were invented, and soon after, we started punching the clock, figuratively and sometimes literally.

    By mastering time, men (and I do mean men) became masters of the masses, making hundreds, then thousands, and eventually billions of people conform to the idea of "Getting to work on time", "Lunch Hours" and "Coffee Breaks."

    Our lives are wound around the springs in Henlein's clocks, or, more likely synchronized to the timed pulses of electricity through quartz or silicon. Even our children have to keep detailed schedules, because we can't imagine a world that isn't structured by the hours in the day.

    The Internet is built on these principles of time; it's all about latency measured in milliseconds and packets moving in mathematical harmony. But what's so ironic is that the effect of the Internet is to break down the very notion that things have to happen on a schedule, or have a purpose.

    Email was first, and it's wonderful trans-temporal medium. We can now have conversations the way that Victorian gentry played chess by the mail. I can consider, and reconsider your point, write a response, retract it, and then write it again, all without you knowing. I might respond as soon as I get your message, I might wait a few hours, and it's all the same to you.

    We have broken time.

    I think humans have a tendency to practice "reverse anthropromorphization" that is, when humans take on the traits of objects or systems around us. We used to say the human mind worked like clockwork, now we say it works like a computer.

    And now we're beginning to reflect the randomness of the Internet in our social models. Nothing happens to all of us at once, but it happens as the packets propagate through the network.

    I've been online long enough to remember the dancing hamster site. And it came back to haunt me in the form of a singing greeting card. It's like an echo from the past. Ideas, photos, pleas for help, all continue like ghosts long after the initial "yop."

    But this echo effect, this lack of temporal moorage, has opened up new ways of thinking for human beings. We expect instant access to information where before we had to wait on the library hours. At the same time, we expect that there will be a delay in responses from friends or social networks as we post things; we can put things out there, like this blog, and wait to see what happens, as opposed to being tied to the Monday issue of the paper.

    There is no Monday issue, there is no construct of Time.

    We now find ourselves in a point in time with events that have no agenda (such as, which brings us so close to events with no set time. Things happen when it's right, as they did before we measured time. And it's the Internet, based on the springs and gears of 16th century German science that is bringing us bring us back to the basic, tribal nature of living.
    Mon, 4 Aug 2008 12:58:23 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Better Living Through Twitter've been playing around on Twitter, which is a tough thing to explain to people who don't play around on Twitter. It kind of reminds me of "prairie dogging" in corporate cubicle land -- that's where you stand up, head above the cube line, and throw a couple comments back and forth with another standing coworker.

    Everyone sees your comments, but you don't necessarily know what everyone else's comments are about. Some things are interesting and pertinent to your world, but others are just random tidbits of someone's life (mmm... hot dogs...).

    I've been asked "what's the point?" by people who don't live online, and honestly, I don't know that there is a point, any more than socializing with coworkers or business associates ever has a point. It's part of the human experience and it doesn't have to have a point.

    It brings to light how much random energy is flowing. I was going to say "flowing through the Internet" but the Internet is just a communications medium for society as a whole. I think the Internet may amplify the energy, or at least give it a sense of focus. Note that I say "a sense of focus" -- really, there isn't much focus in our lives online, no matter what you want to think.

    Not to sound to philosophical, but focus must come from within, and I'm in a generation, in a long line of generations, who are accustomed to being given focus from the outside. The idea that you need to find your own meaning in random bits of information is as old as the I Ching, but adapting the western mind to finding meaning is tough.

    Of course, there's plenty that's meaningless -- well meaningless to you. Or maybe, meaningless to everyone. It's part of the human experience to simply exist and share with others, and that can be enough meaning.

    The greatest part of the new model of social networking is that it's breaking down some of those barriers we built up in our post-modern world. We don't have to save it all up and remember we saw a man carrying a raccoon, we can shout it out, and everyone gets to know us a little better because of the weird shit we talk about all day.

    I learned about the earthquake in Los Angeles via Twitter, and about the changes to the surface of Mars. I went to the community wireless event at the Lucky Lab last night because I saw it mentioned on Twitter.

    I think the "point" is to enrich your experience as you go through life. It might be business, it might be social, it might just be vicarious living. No matter what, it's about doing more than getting up, going to work, and going home -- however you find that is up to you, but I think the tools are getting better to help us all do that.
    Fri, 1 Aug 2008 13:19:26 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Lessons Learned From Apple was forwarded this story: How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong

    Interesting story... There are really two stories in there, one which talks about Jobs' management style, and the other that talks about the idea of how much you keep secret and how much you share as you go.

    On a management side, I agree that, ultimately, any project needs to have a boss, a "decider", a deus ex machina, or some person with ultimate power to say, "Okay, you've all had your say, and we're going to do it this way." Design by committee shows, and decisions by committee are always diluted and rarely let the true visionary shine. But you don't have to be an asshole to do that, and anyone who thinks he has all the answers is usually wrong.

    What makes Jobs different is that he seems to actually have the answers, and his vision works. But what's going to happen to Apple after Jobs moves on is what I think I see happening to Microsoft now that Bill has settled down with Melinda and started doing charity work. The vision will be lost, and the R&D infrastructure won't survive without a visionary tyrant.

    But the other story about Apple is the secrecy outside the company, and I feel that's their marketing genius. They've built an elitist culture that makes people want to get in and keeping secrets is a great way to create buzz (my example of the Ginger cum Segway hype). As long as you're turning out a great product to fulfill the promise, then, great. But then then Segway hasn't exactly lived up to its original hype...

    Secrecy also let's you hide your failures. Microsoft might have done better if they hadn't touted Vista so loudly, then missed release after release, only to give us the bloated beast they did finally bring to market. I have to wonder how many of those kinds of projects have been smothered in the crib at Apple, saving face and making Jobs look more infallible than he probably is.

    So, the lessons to learn from this?

    If you have a visionary, let him lead and live with his eccentricities.
    Marketing is always hype, and secrecy is a tool for that hype.
    Anything can backfire, but arrogance backfires bigger if you fail.

    Or, at least that's what I believe... I don't exactly make the richest people list in Forbes...

    Thu, 31 Jul 2008 13:22:33 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    It's the Brand, Baby really believe that we can build a sexy brand that people love, evangelize, and want to be part of. I don't even care what the product is, but I've attracted a lot of amazing talent over the years with a mediocre business model, hardly any pay, and an unfocused brand.

    It's my belief in the "whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and that the human experience is a hell of a lot more than sitting in a cube and doing linear work that attracts people to Conquent. I've got a hip work ethic, and a boring business model supporting bunch of dull clients.

    So, let's take the kernel of what gets me up in the middle of the night to hammer on my keyboard and dissect the problems.

    Old School and New Media
    There are basically two kinds of companies online. There are the new media companies like Google and Facebook. Heck, throw in Yahoo and MSN while we're at it.

    These companies succeed as maverick, explosive growth, edgy companies. While traditional business looks at the Facebook model, they look at it the way you look at a concept car at an auto show -- it's cool as hell, but you won't ever drive the thing.

    The credible companies online are credible because of their offline presence. I'm talking traditional news outlets like CNN and The New York Times. They lean heavily on their old school practices and existing infrastructure.

    Merging old school and new media hasn't worked very well for companies like Time Warner (and they're partly a tech company), although it's hard to say what's what in the corporate ownership game these days.

    I have always tried to bring new media to old school companies. And it doesn't work. Old School companies have to be ready to change, and as soon as you shine the brilliant light of the internet into the mausoleum that is traditional business, the skeletons start to get ugly and you get dragged down into the pit.

    Okay, maybe a bit too colorful of a metaphor, but the reality is that I've allowed my clients to set the standard of work for my company, and that has got to change. Yet, I still have to make money. So, I need to attract clients who are really ready to make the jump into the new world.

    It's the brand, baby
    We've talked about Apple with their amazing strategy of perfection and secrecy to create an elite brand. We know Nike (anyone who succeeds in getting people to get a tattoo of their logo is doing a hell of a job), and then there are cult things like PBR (be prepared to watch it disappear now that Miller owns them) and the fashion/music/Hollywood world where the brand is all there is.

    I think what's got me inspired right now is Barack Obama. This man is succeeding because he's built a brand that's hip and encourages hip people to play. It's simultaneously the most old-school, grey suited product (federal politics) and the sexiest power position on the planet.

    Anyone can understand the outcome, but you can play in so many ways. Bumper stickers and yard signs be damned, we're talking ring tones, social networks, micro donations, and easy access to the process.

    Moving forward
    We need that ONE thing people understand. Something sexy, but easy to understand. Something cool, which can be used by anyone. We need to use it as the evangelical point. We need a follow up.

    We need a way to get people involved beyond using the thing. We need them to buy into the collaborative, mobile, mentality. We're living in the future right now, and we need to open up as many of those mausoleums as we can and clean some dust out of the brains of our peers.

    New media tools aren't making us dumb, they're making us think differently. We have instant access to the sum of human knowledge. Well, some of us do.

    So my core philosophy is to get everyone in the mix, find a way to organize their blogs, their communities, their business propositions, and learn what we have at the end of the today, and then see what we have when we wake up in the morning.
    Wed, 30 Jul 2008 15:38:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Business Architecture vs. Web Construction's prospects are looking for someone to build complex websites. Unfortunately, that means we compete with tool users for construction jobs, when what we really do is more architectural.

    The process is completely backwards in this business. People come to me looking for a specific technological product before they figure out the details of what they want to say. Let alone a core business philosophy to drive the company.

    Think of it this way -- you hire someone to build a great restaurant for you in a bucolic setting. You know you don't have sewer or water, but you figure once the restaurant is up and running you'll be able to pay to have it hooked up. Oh, and you don't know how to cook.

    If I'm just the builder, I don't have the opportunity to review your credentials, business plan, or, really, check out your story. Now, I'm stuck telling you that there's no way I can finish the job because we can't hook up the plumbing, which you assured me would be there.

    Not only that, as I work with you, I slowly lose faith that you can even make a restaurant work as I learn how little of your plan actually exists. This makes it harder to get the crew excited enough to come up with innovative ideas to work around the problems, and the project is likely to wither.

    Oh, and then there's the expectation that the painter will be able to fix your plumbing problem, but let's leave that aside...

    The flaw with the entrepreneurial market is that inexperience and seat of the pants development is the norm, to the point that a 23 year old kid is offered millions for an untested technology. The bank wouldn't loan someone with no restaurant experience money, but the VC and Angel world still hands money out to techies with no business experience and little resume.

    What's worse is how people invest their own money, and their relatives' money, into tech companies with no tech people. That's where Conquent has come in many times -- we get hired to actually build the vague idea that the non-technical, non-business person has talked other non-technical, non-business friends and family out of money.

    So, the unanswered question sits on my desk: how do I position my company on the front end of the process, helping people design their businesses before they go down technical dead ends?
    Tue, 29 Jul 2008 19:15:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    On Truth as I'm starting this thing out, I figured I should dredge up this old posting from my Myspace page as a statement of the fact that anything I may post here may or may not be true...

    The problem with human communication is that it's fluid, not absolute.

    What I say today may feel absolutely true at this moment, but what I say tomorrow may contradict today's statement. I don't care if this is emotional communication (like between friends or lovers) or if it's business communication.

    Granted, if you keep track, try to look at some sort of drift check, then maybe you can discern from your own statements what you believe. Or rather, what you profess to believe.

    But the problem rests in that very word. Belief. Beliefs, despite what we'd like to, er, believe, are transitory. Sometimes beliefs take time to morph; obviously what I believe about what the world is has changed since I was five -- new information has come along.

    Aside from facts, we end up with emotional content. What I believe about the integrity of a person may morph over time simply from repetitive experience. Or it might be augmented by something baser like they smell bad. Stupid, theoretically dismissible, but that wad of dog crap wedged in their shoe may woo my opinion from Good to Bad.

    Unfortunately, these influences are often subtler than that (Because, said Scrooge, a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!) You don't always know why you form an opinion or take an action, but more often than not, it's not a logical decision.

    And I don't think that's all that bad. We have to be human, after all, and part of the human condition is being wooed by our organic nature. I believe it's that randomness that adds a sense of mystery and wonder to the world, but at the same time, it can't be the only thing that runs our lives...

    No answers, just a ramble...
    Tue, 24 Jun 2008 13:35:32 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Inverse Peter Principle're dealing with a problem vendor at work. He's an old hand at what he does, and at one time probably did know more than anyone else in the business. But the industry continues to change and he is dead certain that he's still right, even without checking. Steve and I were talking about this, and it seems that this is a variation on an old business theme.

    The "Peter Principle" refers to someone who is promoted JUST outside of their ability. The theory is that if you do a good job in a big company, then you get promoted. If you do a good job in your new position, you get promoted again. Until you finally get promoted to a point where you can't really do a very good job, so you stop getting promoted AND you're doing a crappy job.

    So, you have someone who did a fantastic job for the company promoted until they're not only not doing the job they were good at, but doing a bad job in your new position, doubling your liability and killing your company because you wanted to reward a good worker.

    But, this is something different. This guy was on top of his game, and then the game changed. It's sort of the inverse Peter Principle. If you're really good at something, eventually things will change around you and (if you don't change) you won't be good at it anymore.

    Or maybe it's more of task obsolescence. Not the whole job, like a blacksmith or a steamship captain or Fortran Programmer. It's that pieces of your job aren't applicable anymore. So your job is still there, but your skills don't apply. Which means you're no longer suited for the job that you were once the king of.

    And that has got to hurt. Deeply. I never want to end up in that place, and I think as the Boomers age, we're going to see a lot of people ending up there. They still gotta work, they built careers on being whiz kids, but they just aren't anymore.

    So the question in my mind is, is it a choice? I think it is, but I don't know what choices lead to this. Some of it is life choices (I'd rather live my life than grind at my job and learn more), some of it is simple arrogance (I've explained this so many times that I'm not even going to discuss it anymore, and therefore not learn when I'm suddenly wrong).

    But some of it is biology. I'm slowing down a little, and I'm just 40. How do you avoid that? Once the ulcer kicks in the coffee doesn't make it as a top choice... diet and exercise while living the good life (or meeting with clients all the time) gets to be a tricky tightrope walk (but that's choices again).

    Well, damnit, at least I know I'm right about this. (I hope)ID#comments
    Sat, 13 Jan 2007 12:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    Random Knowledge'm a knowledge junkie, or maybe just and information junkie. Well, probably not just information. I hate sitting around watching the news, current events are usually too fleeting to really catch my attention for long.

    But I love to learn new things. It's one of the reasons I'm in the profession I am. Sure, there's the aspect of the ever changing face of technology, but I also get to learn about other people's businesses and therefore whole new areas of knowledge I never knew existed.

    In the last eight years running Conquent, I've had the challenge/opportunity to pitch to such enormous entities as Microsoft and the US Department of Transportation (really when you get the politics in it and I'm talking with senatorial staffers, it's kinda like pitching to the US Government in general). DOT got me to DC which was amazing, Microsoft got me to the Microsoft campus, which is also amazing, but in a very different, and more disturbing way.

    I've worked with Allergan to track Botox insurance policies (not for the face, for the spasms and migraines, mind you). I've worked through a client to work with Herbalife as they changed hands from a family company to a ex-Disney executive team (THAT was a lesson in corporate management).

    I've learned about the world of manufacturer's reps, electrical engineering, artistic rubber stamps, the production of fine wine, auto shops, franchising in general, customer service software, land use planning, clean room manufacturing, copier repair, railroad crossing materials, opera, multi level marketing, dentistry, surrogates and egg donors, tractors, naval swell predictions, and... the list keeps going.

    Then there's my personal time online. I surf to the strangest places, finding things like a spoof of Pulp's "Common People", a popular description of the formation of black holes in the center of galaxies, pictures from the mars rovers, tech news, regular news, satellite photos... Because of watching Torchwood, I pulled up Cardiff on Google Maps and explored the city a little from 1,500 feet. It's funny when you start recognizing places you've never been.

    What I do with this odd collection of business, personal and pop knowledge is beyond me. It does mean that I can hold my own in just about any conversational situation. I can talk about hair products or astrophysics, and I find either topic to be interesting, depending on the give and take of the conversationalist.

    What I have learned for certain is that no one knows all the bits and pieces I know. But, as it turns out, no one knows all the bits and pieces you know either. We're all picking up random bits of knowledge as we go. Some people go broad, others go deep, some of us go deep and wide.

    And it's that randomness that makes us what we are. As a culture we keep trying to define what people need to learn, and by omission, what they don't need to know. It's that omission that's so dangerous. It often seems that that odd, cross fertilization (pasta from China, the number zero from Arabia) is what ends up making life worth living or gives everyone a huge boost to new areas they never dreamed of.

    No conclusions, just a random bit...ID#comments
    Fri, 29 Dec 2006 12:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator
    The Hive[this is a repost of a blog I put on Myspace back in 2006]

    There's this great article in this month's Atlantic Monthly about Wikipedia.

    I bring it up here because a big part of my being on MySpace is exploring how the Internet is changing the way humans think. Or at least how we learn.

    For example, before Google, you needed tons of books to do the kind of work I do. You'd get the book on progamming language "A", the "Tips and Tricks" book for some quick examples, the 500 page book you got because there was this one section, maybe two pages long, that explained EXACTLY how to do something you wanted to do.

    But now you just Google it. And, if you're any good at putting your keywords together, you get an answer almost intantly.

    Wiki is more abstract, but still amazing. I was out in Redmond, Oregon, a couple weeks back for a wedding. At the little resort community, in the middle of nowhere, there was a mini-auto show for Pierce-Arrow autos. Well, I'm looking at this 1904 bicycle that the company made, and there's a schrader valve sticking out of the rim.

    "Schrader valve?" I ask the guy. "Weren't those introduced later?"

    He didn't know. So, I pull out my Palm Treo, pop online (I had digital signal in the desert), look up "schrader valve" on Wiki, get the page for Shreader Valve, follow the link for the whole background August Schrader and find that the valve was invented in 1891 and in wide use by the time the bike I was looking at was around.

    The fact that I can get that level of information in the middle of butt-nowhere, and give an accurate, relevant detail to someone who, in theory, is an expert, is absolutely amazing to me.

    So, this MySpace thing... within a couple days of setting up a MySpace page, a friend finds me out of the blue. BAM, she was bored, and she set up a page and then started searching for all her friends. Within days of me... No corrolation, just the way it worked out.

    Where Wiki is for the collection of interesting information, MySpace is the random gut of the Internet. We'll see what happens with it next...
    Sat, 26 Aug 2006 00:00:00 -0800 bissellator ]]> Bissellator